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Vol. 8, No. 2 Spring/Summer 1987 

/ Creatine 

.WOnian Governors State University, University Park, IL 60466-3193 


ISSN 0736-4733 


Helen E. Hughes, Editor 

John Ostenburg, Editorial Consultant 

Suzanne Oliver, Art Director 

Virginia Eysenbach, Editorial Consultant 

Leda Lance, Typesetter 


Donna Bandstra, Healthgroup International, Sherman Oaks, CA 

Margaret Brady, Social Sciences, Homewood, IL 

Rev. Ellen Dohner Livingston, Religion, Unitarian Society of Pomona Valley, CA 

Rita Durrant, League of American Penwomen, Doylestown, PA 

Carol Houlihan Flynn, Literature, Tufts University, MA 

Harriet Gross, Sociology /Woman's Studies, Governors State University 

Helene N. Guttman, Biological Sciences, Bethesda, MD 

Young Kim, Communications Science, Governors State University 

Temmie Gilbert, Theatre /Media, Governors State University 

Linda Grace-Kobas, Journalism, University of Buffalo N.Y. 

Betye Saar, Fine Arts, Hollywood, CA 

Sara Shumer, Political Theory, Haverford College PA 

Emily Wasiolek, Literature, Prairie State College, Chicago Heights, IL 

Barbara Jenkins, Psychology, Governors State University 

Bethe Hagens, Anthropology, Governors State University 

Terri Schwartz, Psychology, Governors State University 

Joan Lewis, Poetry, Powell, OH 

Lynn Thomas Strauss, Women's Studies: Parenting, Oak Park, IL 

Deborah Garretson, Counseling, Park Forest, IL 

Glenda Bailey-Mershon, Illinois NOW /National Organization for Women, Oak Park, IL 



3 Introduction 

4 Hidden Feminism in Gertrude Stein's Roses and Rooms by Doris T. Wright 

9 Portrait of Mabel Dodge at the Villa Curonia: A Detective Story by Allegro, Stewart 

16 Gatja H. Rothe, Portrait of an Artist by Carole Spearin McCauley 

23 The Social Bifurcation of the Feminine by Eveline Lang 

30 Accommodation by Joanne Zimmerman 

36 Endangered Species by Patricia Roth Schwartz 

40 Poetry 

42 First Frost/Kathryn Kerr and Raymond Bial, book review by Duke Rank 

43 Heartbreak Hotel/ Gabrielle Burton, book review by Emily Wasiolek 

45 Upcoming Issues 

46 Editor's Column 

The Creative Woman is published three times a year by Governors 
State University. We focus on a special topic in each issue, presented 
from a feminist perspective. We celebrate the creative achievements of 
women in many fields and appeal to inquiring minds. We publish fic- 
tion, poetry, book reviews, articles, photography and original graphics. 

Cover: "Threat Gesture", original mezzotint with drypoint, by 
G.H. Rothe. 


As we go to press, the Goodman Theatre in Chicago is presenting a brilliant production of She Always 
Said, Pablo. Frank Galati has taken the words of Gertrude Stein, the visual images of Pablo Picasso, with 
the music of Igor Stravinsky and Virgil Thomson, to illumine the ways these 20th century geniuses in- 
fluenced one another. They changed forever the way we experience our English language, the way we see 
the world and hear music, and the superimposition of their work is a revelation, an enthralling piece of 
pageantry and total theatre. In this issue, Allegra Stewart and Doris Wight also focus attention on the 
work of Gertrude Stein with two articles dealing with her middle period, the years following 1912, the 
time of her first travels with Alice B. Toklas and Tender Buttons. 

Carole Sperlin McCauley gives us a close look at the process of creation in her profile of the important 
but not sufficiently recognized painter, G.H. Rothe. Two short stories examine cross-generational rela- 
tionships: in Joanne Zimmerman's mordant tale, "Accommodation," we meet a nasty old woman and a 
too-readily corrupted twelve-year-old; when you first get into Patricia Roth Schwartz's "Endangered 
Species," you may feel you've entered a story outline for the next Doonesbury sequence— her story gives a 
new dimension to the concepts of both continuity and generation gap and asks us to consider whether it is 
the mother's activist commitment or the daughter's ecstatic freedom which is the more endangered. 
Eveline Lang's article is a contribution to feminist linguistic theory, a field growing in importance and 
sophistication. Poems and book reviews by Emily Wasiolek and Hugh Rank round out this issue. We 
hope you enjoy this spring bouquet of belles-lettres. 


Photo: Kevin Horan, from the Goodman Theatre's production of She Always Said, Pablo. 


Kodali+6- of 

— '-S 

■5 ifoO -V"*"*- 


Doris T. Wight 

Roses in a potentially infinite procession, and 
her gnomic utterance concerning them, have 
won fame for Gertrude Stein among the general 
populace and literati alike. "A rose is a rose is a 
rose is a rose. . ." Hearing these syntax- 
shattering words, we remember them forever. 
Forever we see the march of roses: Gertrude's 
first rose, followed by a second, followed by a 
third, a fourth. . .All the roses look alike, "pret- 
ty maids all in a row," yet each is different. For, 
after all, only one rose follows the first, and only 
one rose fills that unique space that follows the 
second and precedes the third. . .Infinity is here, 
time in the rhythmic unfolding of word-matter, 
and space in the occupancy of the volume by 
the unfolding march of roses in the rooms of 
space. . . 

Occupancy of the rooms of space by the in- 
dividual, whether by an individual rose or by an 
individual woman like Gertrude Stein seeking 
identity: this is my subject. For rooms — as 
metaphors and symbols as well as literal section- 
ings of human habitats— dominated Gertrude 
Stein's thoughts at the time she wrote her 
greatest poetry, the legendary Tender Buttons and 
her concurrent Villa Curonia portraits. These 
hermetic works document Stein's hidden 
feminist struggle for room in space for her in- 
dividual rose: herself as self-respecting woman 
and as artist. 

Tender Buttons was begun during a summer 
journey to Spain that Gertrude Stein took with 
her typist Alice. Gertrude Stein and Alice 
Toklas were refugees that summer of 1912 from 
the conflict-filled rooms at 27 rue de Fleurus 
where Gertrude, her older brother Leo, and 
Alice had been living together. Originally, star- 
ting in 1903, only two people, Leo and Ger- 
trude, had inhabited those rooms. This brother 
and sister pair, independently wealthy, began 
collecting paintings of a new style just coming to 
birth, a disturbing style that seemed to do 
disorderly things with space and perspective. 
Cezanne was leading the way in this revolu- 
tionary new style of art; Matisse also soon aban- 
doned traditional perspective that showed things 
as they "are"; and Picasso arrived, experimenting 
more and more wildly. People began to visit 
every Saturday night at the Steins', where they 
could stare at these bizarre new styles and listen 
to Leo talk about these styles and about art. 
People found the Stein brother arresting. The 
sister didn't talk much, although she had a 

beautifully cultivated voice when she did speak. 
It was the talking brother who was the focal 
center of the rooms, like the sun at the center of 

Gertrude too looked upwards at Leo as toward 
light. She had always adored this older brother, 
and when she failed to complete medical school 
in America she had joined him in Europe and 
the two had moved into these rooms. Leo led 
the way in appreciating the revolutionary 
changes coming about in painting, with Ger- 
trude earnestly following. The brother and sister 
were equals, however, when it came to decisions 
concerning purchase of individual art-works; 
here there was true equality, room for individual 
expression of opinion, for Leo and Gertrude 
bought and owned the art-works jointly. There 
seemed to be an acceptable apportionment of 
the space, with Gertrude struggling year after 
year to write — an endeavor which Leo never 
took very seriously — and with Leo talking about 
art and expecting himself to accomplish great 
things in the world. Early in 1909 Alice Toklas 
joined the Stein household, making more conve- 
nient her typing of Gertrude's manuscripts, and 
Leo claimed to like the arrangement. 

At the commencement of the writing of Tender 
Buttons in the summer of 1912, however, brother 
and sister were not getting along together at all 
anymore, for Leo's attitude towards his sister 
was becoming more and more openly contemp- 
tuous. That fall Gertrude would write her Villa 
Curonia portraits, and that winter Leo would 
write a parody of her obscure portrait of Mabel 
Dodge, telling a friend in a letter: 

Gertrude and even Alice have the cheek to pre- 
tend that they understand this (which I can do in 
part sometimes) but as Gertrude thought it very 
nice and I had very sarcastical intentions we 
evidently didn't understand it the same way. 

As for Picasso's late work it is for me utter 
abomination. Somebody asked me whether I 
didn't think it mad. I said sadly, "No, it isn't as 
interesting as that; it's only stupid.". . .Either I 
have lost all my cunning in aesthetic perception or 
else I am superannuated, or else it is a silly 
blunder. 1 

Three days later Leo wrote even more insulting- 
ly about his sister to this friend: 

Gertrude. . .hungers and thirsts for gloire, and it 
was of course a serious thing for her that I can't 
abide her stuff and think it abominable. . .Her ar- 
tistic capacity is, 1 think, extremely small. I have 
just been looking over the Melanctha thing [in 
Three Lives] again. Gertrude's mind is about as lit- 
tle nimble as a mind can be. . . .The Portrait of 
Mabel Dodge was directly inspired by Picasso's 
latest form. . .Both he and Gertrude are using 
their intellects, which they ain't got, to do what 
would need the finest tact, which they ain't got 

neither, and they are in my belief turning out the 
most Godalmighty rubbish that is to be found. 2 

The break was final when those letters were 
written, but it had not been final during the 
preceding summer when Gertrude and Alice 
visited Spain. That fall when they visited Mabel 
Dodge, whether Leo would permanently leave 
their rooms at #27 was not clear, and Gertrude 
was in a great state of pain and suspense about 
this threat. 

Life without Leo as the center of the household 
rooms was a prospect so difficult for Gertrude to 
face, in fact, that it brought about a crisis in her 
writing and a complete change in her writing 
style. For Gertrude Stein had always idealized 
what she called "family living" despite her own 
concealed sexual deviancy. In spite of her lesbian 
orientation, perhaps even causing it, Gertrude 
revered men. She criticized but adored her 
father, and did not respect her mother much, as 
her disguised depiction of her parents in her 
family-history novel, The Making of Americans, il- 
lustrates. Similarly, she idolized her educational 
mentor, Pragmatic philosopher William James. 
Despite the decentered universe that modern 
painting and the other arts, including her own 
writing, were intuitively depicting in this post- 
Darwinian, this Einsteinian world, Gertrude did 
not want to relinquish a picture of the universe 
with a man at the head of the household, and a 
God at the center of the rooms of space, a God 
referred to by the masculine pronoun — one who 
had, according to the Biblical myth, created 
man first, and woman from a mere part of man, 
and for the sole function of keeping man from 

Like the Jewish males at the synagogue who 
thanked God daily in formal prayer that they 
had not been born women, Gertrude Stein too 
identified women with matter and evil and dif- 
ference and inferiority, as being abysmally 
beneath men — who were seen as spirit and unity 
and superiority and light itself. Tender Buttons 
was begun in the struggle between Leo and Ger- 
trude, but it records the deeper struggle within 
Gertrude alone concerning her self-worth as a 
woman and as a lesbian and as a writer. 

Tender Buttons, then. While writing it, Gertrude 
had three separate notebooks going 
simultaneously, one labeled "Objects," one 
"Food," one "Rooms." Yet despite their 
separateness, these three books, like those of the 
Divine Comedy, present a progression from the 
hell o{ "Objects" through the purgatory of 
"Food" into the final paradise at the end of 
"Rooms" when at last the soul in spiritual agony 
sees the dreamed-of vision. Alice Toklas plays 
Gertrude Stein's Virgil and Beatrice on this 
classic journey to the underworld. 

The opening poem of "Objects" gives us Ger- 
trude Stein herself as an object, like all the other 
objects in this inferno that she will describe. She 
is a glass carafe— female symbol in being a con- 
tainer, but a complex symbol, since this par- 
ticular symbol is not womanly-soft but male- 
hard. The carafe is also a spectacle, spectacle in 
a double sense: an eyeglass that sees and also an 
object that is seen. Gertrude, like Dante, 
describes her spiritual wound at the opening of 
her journey, depicting the carafe as being of a 
"hurt" color, the red of blood or the purple or 
green of a bruise. The interpretation of this 
short blast of poetry can go on and on. 

A kind in glass and a cousin, a spectacle and 
nothing strange a single hurt color and an ar- 
rangement in a system to pointing. All this and 
not ordinary, not unordered in not resembling. 
The difference is spreading. 3 

The carafe confronts her hard world of objects, 
a confrontation mediated through language. 
Qualities recurring in this outside world, as they 
are in the infant's consciousness we once all in- 
habited, are finally localized and isolated, iden- 
tified. But as in the infant's world, the identifica- 
tion of separate somethings is always colored by 
the inner forces of the individual - cravings for 
food, drink, warmth, caresses, and so on. This 
world of objects is always perceived in terms of 
its recurring, identifiable qualities. From the 
beginning, the sexual drive is operating, and the 
qualities are being lined up with male and 
female polarities. 

Leo appears immediately in the second poem of 
"Objects" in the guise of "Glazed Glitter," a 
spirit resplendent in power, hard and handsome 
and clean and spit-and-polished shining and 
whole: God and Satan in one. Alice Toklas 
comes forth in the third poem, completing the 
triangle. "A Substance in a Cushion" portrays 
woman as softness, sweet and dissolvable rather 
than callous and hard and eternally enduring. 
"Objects" thus will tell the story of the battle 
between woman as matter and man as spirit, 
between hard and soft, between white and the 
colors, between similar things and different 
things, between a whole galaxy of oppositions, 
but the story is told ostensibly through the com- 
monest of everyday objects: "A Box," "Mildred's 
Umbrealla," "A Red Stamp," "A Piano." Some 
of the so-called "objects" mock our sense of 
logic, for other titles include "A Piece of Coffee," 
"A Little Called Pauline," "Suppose an Eyes," 
"It Was Black, Black Took." This unorthodox 
writing reaches a climax in a series of images 
concerned with books, with writing— with the 
disguised current problem that Gertrude was 
having with Leo's not respecting her writing. 

The end of "Objects" has poems like "Peeled 
Pencil, Choke"— and Gertrude of course is that 
skinned, peeled pencil choking. The very last 
poem pleads wildly "This is This Dress, Aider," 
which decoded reads "This is distress, 
Ada" — Ada being a fictional name that Gertrude 
often gave Alice Toklas. 

Purgatory after the inferno of "Objects," the se- 
cond section of Tender Buttons, is a world labeled 
"Food," and the desire expressed again and 
again is for the fulfillment of incorporating the 
external into oneself in all possible ways, in- 
cluding the sexual. In the first poem here, 
"Roastbeef ' (note the female "rose" hidden 
within "roast"), Gertrude passionately begs her 
lover Alice to let herself be eaten, to provide 
Gertrude with nourishment and pleasure: 
"Please be the beef, please beef, please be carved 
clear, please be a case of consideration." 4 This 
"Food" section again ends with a crisis, once 
more centered on Gertrude's writing ambitions 
and her need for Alice's support. "Art, I choke!" 
is wailed out through the disguise of the 
vegetable "artichoke," and so on. The section 
ends with the crucial question of a "Center in a 
table," metaphor not only for Leo as head of the 
rooms at #27, but also for the religious question 
of God in his heaven. 

"Act so there is no use in a centre" are the 
opening words of the "Rooms" section, the 
climactic third part of Tender Buttons which, 
unlike the earlier two sections, runs on as a con- 
tinuous unit for pages and pages, as if represen- 
ting the endless rooms of space itself. 

Act so there is no use in a centre. . .A whole cen- 
tre and a border make hanging a way of dressing 
. . .If the centre has the place then there is a 
distribution. There is a contradiction and naturally 
returning there comes to be both sides and the 
centre. . .The author of all that is in there behind 
the door. . .So the shape is there and the color 
and the outline and the miserable centre. . . 5 

The question of a vertical, great-chain-of-being 
world with God, light, spirit, and male humans 
at the top versus the pluralistic conception of 
the horizontal many, including females, is fought 
out again, but now for a last time. Resolution 
will finally occur only at the very last paragraph 
of "Rooms," written afterwards, and with the 
help of Stein's previous working-through of the 
problems in her portraits of Mabel Dodge and of 
Constance Fletcher. 

When Gertrude and Alice had returned from 
their Spanish summer in 1912, with Tender But- 
tons begun but unfinished, and the question of 
continued living with Leo unresolved, they went 
to visit a rich American woman in Italy, Mabel 
Dodge. Mabel's husband Edwin, an architect, 

had designed the wonderfully spacious Villa 
Curonia, where, as Gertrude described it in the 
opening of "Portrait of Mabel Dodge at the Villa 

The days are wonderful and the nights are 
wonderful and the life is pleasant. 6 

Edwin Dodge was away in America during 
Stein's visit, but despite the architect-creator's 
absence, a ceaseless flow of guests, like souls 
visiting earth for their brief life stay, came and 
went at the villa. The openness of the villa 
seems to have had a powerful effect on Stein, 
perhaps reinforcing the sense of freedom that, 
despite her spiritual anguish, she had felt in 
Spain. She wrote of the freedom to breathe at 
the early part of Mabel's portrait, and alluded to 
the rooms of the villa directly again in the final 

So much breathing has not the same place when 
there is that much beginning. So much breathing 
has not the same place when the ending is lessen- 
ing. So much breathing has not the same place 
and there must not be so much suggestion 
. . There is not all that breath. . There is not 
that differentiation. There is that which is in time. 
There is that room that is the largest place when 
there is all that is where there is space. . . 7 

Rooms and the battle over space and of how to 
conceive of space are at the heart of the portrait 
of a fellow guest named Constance Fletcher as 
well. In this portrait again, references occur to 
space and rooms and doors, as well as, here, to 
writing. Constance Fletcher was a famous writer, 
and her presence at the villa gave Gertrude a 
chance to confront directly her crisis of morale 
caused by Leo's scorn of her own writing at- 

There was the writing and the preparation that 
was pleasing and succeeding and being enterpris- 
ing. It was not subdued when there was discussion, 
it was done where there was the room that was 
not a dream. 8 

"The writing and the preparation" refer to Ger- 
trude's writing efforts. "It was not subdued" 
alludes to her enterprise, threatened "when there 
was discussion" with Leo in which he was 
critical of his sister. "The room that was not a 
dream" rejects the literal argument-filled rooms 
back at the shared apartment in favor of rooms 
conceived of as space, as "room" for breathing, 
opportunity, freedom. 

Mark the data that tells the merit of having that 
time to state that not to wait is to say that the 
door has been entered. If to wait marks the place 
where the entrance if it is made comes to be ap- 
proached then to do what is not done is to do all 
that and carefully that which is solid does not fill 
the space. 9 

Here "the door entered" is "a definite decision 
made." "That which is solid" and "does not fill 
the space" refers to matter, the solidity of limited 
and limiting individual facts. Opposed to narrow 
perceptions are the broader visions of life's 
"spaces," possibilities for fresh outlooks, fresh 
thinking, fresh solutions to problems. 

There where the time is not cruel is the place 
where the time is what is filling the half and the 
whole and no passage that has that intention can 
be intended when that which is solid is not 
building every house. All houses are open that is 
to say a door and a window and a table and the 
waiter make the shadow smaller and the shadow 
which is larger is not flickering. 10 

"Where the time is not cruel" is the kinder 
realm of intangibles like ideas, potentialities, of 
immortality as opposed to mortality, and so on. 
"All houses are open" expresses that all in- 
dividual entities in life open out to everything 
else, are not isolated. "A door and a window" 
are openings; they allow ingress and egress, join 
things. "A table and the waiter" refer to many 
things, and are prominent also in Tender Buttons. 
Allusions to eating extend to civilization and its 
eating practices and rituals, as well as to religion 
with tables of sacrifice to gods and with their 
waiting, praying human congregations of 
believers. "Making shadows smaller" indicates 
making things clearer, brighter, so that the 
shadows of the unknown or the threatening are 
reduced. "The shadow which is larger" described 
as "not flickering" perhaps points to the 
mysteries and potentialities remaining beyond 
human comprehension, however far we extend 
our knowledge. 

These concluding lines of the portrait of Con- 
stance Fletcher, like the concluding paragraph of 
Tender Buttons, portray, despite the oceans that 
had encircled her, Gertrude's final working- 
through of her spiritual crisis. She would reluc- 
tantly let go the idea of a God-centered, male- 
centered, human-centered universe, but she 
would make the "sensible decision" to retain it 
as well, though in altered form. She would ac- 
cept the new difference, "wrongness," as well as 
the old unity, "rightness." She would follow her 
feelings and accept contradictions. She would 
relinquish the idea of a just God ordering all, 
but she would readmit the idea in a broadened 
view of "incredible justice." If she must lose 
father and brother as gods, and would continue 
to reject an omnipotent Father God (in Spain 
both Alice and she had been tempted to become 
Catholics), still she would find consolation in 
some mysterious, gender-free "care" that perhaps 
ruled with a wisdom we cannot grasp. Like her 
beloved Pragmatic mentor William James, who 
had come to somewhat similar conclusions, she 

would "Will to Believe," because this attitude 
freed her from the artistic aridity and despair in- 
to which her brother's criticisms of her writing 
had plunged her. Here, ending in a great hymn 
to living and breathing itself, is the hermetic 
concluding paragraph of "Rooms" in Tender But- 

A light in the moon the only light is on Sunday. What 
was the sensible decision. The sensible decision was 
that notwithstanding many declarations and more 
music, not even notwithstanding the choice and a torch 
and a collection. . .not even withstanding more cultiva- 
tion and some seasoning, not even with drowning and 
with the ocean being encircling, not even with more 
likeness and any cloud, not even with terrific sacrifice 
of pedestrianism and a special resolution, not even 
more likely to be pleasing. The care with which the 
rain is wrong and the green is wrong and the white is 
wrong, the care with which there is a chair and plenty 
of breathing. The care with which there is incredible 
justice and likeness, all this makes a magnificent 
asparagus, and abo a fountain. 

Gertrude and Leo divided the paintings they 
had bought as a pair, Gertrude taking the 
Picassos and Leo the Renoirs and Matisses. Ger- 
trude, like Picasso plunging into Cubism, had 
made a philosophic and artistic and personal 
breakthrough into the twentieth century. She 
went so far when in desperation she finally made 
the leap, that most of us even yet cannot follow 
her. Moreover, her breakthrough is cast into 
such a hermetic form that the best most of us 
can do as yet is to treat her words as if they 
were musical notes, listening not for logic but for 
tone. If one does this, especially if one reads 
aloud that last celebratory paragraph of Tender 
Buttons, imagining that it is the author's own 
much-admired, highly cultivated voice speaking, 
one can break through too, via this great 
feminist, great human poetry, into the twentieth 
century. It is a decentered universe whose rooms 
the human beings inhabit. In some ways we still 
dominate nature, but in other ways there is a 
total subversion of former domination. There is 
no great mystical rose such as Dante saw, but an 
endless string of smaller roses marching in its 
stead. One truth to be seen in "a rose is a rose is 
a rose is a rose" is a Cubistic break-up and 
horizontal merging and exchanging of identities, 
so that a rose is a star is a pebble is a mountain 
is a painting made by humans, and leaves of 
books written by mystics like Gertrude are grass 
rustling in the open rooms of air. 


'Leo Stein, Journey Into the Self (New York: Crown 
Publishers, 1950), 49. 

2 Ibid., 53. 

3 From Selected Writings of Gertrude Stein, ed. Carl Van 
Vechten (New York: Vintage Books, 1962), 461. 
Com. on page 22. 



Allegra Stewart 

Anything is a detective story if it can be found out. 

(GHA, 84)* 

Interpreting a composition of Gertrude Stein's 
middle period may require a bit of sleuthing, in 
the course of which the sleuth employs every 
available method: he follows blind paths and 
ends up in cul-de-sacs. In a metaphor from the 
"Portrait of Mabel Dodge at Villa Curonia," "all 
legs are used.** But as Bergson said, "explana- 
tion always consists in resolving. . .the un- 
forseeable and new into elements old or known." 
(CE, 181) In view of Stein's conspicuous stylistic 
mannerisms it behooves the critic to examine 
the surface of her work for such familiar 
elements as repetition (of both words and gram- 
matical structures), cadence, rhyme, puns and 
homonomy ("he had his hymns in him"), unex- 
pected juxtapositions and disjunctions, and non 
sequiturs. What baffles the textual explicator, 
however, is the dissociation of words from 
familiar contexts. From piece to piece, moreover, 
the same words recur. Thornton Wilder thought 
her devoted readers should compile "a lexicon of 
her locutions." As he saw it, "The task of her 
future commentators will consist in tracing them 
(her locutions) to their earliest appearances 
embedded in a context which furnishes the 
meaning they held for her." (FIA, xxl) 
Sometime the words of a given piece seem to 
form a configuration. If one focuses upon them 
he may discover, amid ambiguities and 
obscurities, a surprising coherence — surprising 
because the meaning unveiled may have little to 
do with the ostensible subject given in the title. 

Much useful information about Stein's 
background and the details of her daily life has 
come from the reminiscences of her friends and 
their prefaces to her books. Having identified an 
actual Lucy Lily Lamont as the inspiration of 
the "Lucy Lily Lily Lucy" lyric in Four Saints in 
Three Acts, Karl Van Vechten declared that the 
key to many of Stein's obscurities would be 
found only in her personal history: 

*Abbreviations are listed at the end. 

**"The Portrait of Mabel Dodge at the Villa Curonia," paragraph 
23. To permit easy identification of quotations from this portrait, 
the paragraphs have been numbered. 

The books of this artist are indeed full of sly 
references to matters unknown to their readers 
and only one completely familiar with the routine, 
and roundabout, of Miss Stein's daily life would be 
able to explain every line of her prose. (SW, xiv) 

Her biographers and critics have scrutinized and 
are continuing to explore the implications of her 
work. Stein herself, of course, has given us in 
her autobiographical and critical writings a great 
deal of insight into her goals and intentions, but 
little aid in the interpretation of particular 
pieces. Often her explanations — as in An 
Elucidation, "Portraits and Repetition," or even 
"A Transatlantic Interview" — can be as cryptic 
as the texts they were meant to clarify. 

We know from "Portraits and Repetition" that 
Stein turned away from fiction to "portrait" 
writing in an effort to rid herself of narrative — 
to avoid telling about "any one doing or even 
saying anything" (LIA, 174) and that, inspired 
by cubism, she struggled to express a new vision. 
Abandoning the whole of the narrative tradition 

of English literature, she composed portraits con- 
veying "the rhythm of anybody's personality." A 
portrait became for her a kind of concentration 
of her own vitality as well as of the vitality of 
the "sitter," in terms of his characteristic in- 
terests and subjective preference. "How do you 
like what you have is an important question to 
ask and can produce a portrait of anyone," she 
said. (LIA, 171) Increasingly her portrait writing 
became a "present thing," a description of people 
"as they are existing" (LIA, 175) — in other 
words, a distillation of the essence of a personali- 
ty in a concentrated moment of her own ex- 
perience. But to abstract from a life time is dif- 
ficult, and to achieve her goal she turned to the 
"still-lifes" of Tender Buttons, restricting herself at 
first to "looking at that thing." (LIA, 190) 

Composed in 1912, perhaps before the comple- 
tion of Tender Buttons, "The Portrait of Mabel 
Dodge at the Villa Curonia" is one of Stein's 
first pieces embodying her effort to exclude nar- 
rative from her writing and it illustrates in a 
variety of ways her growing tendency toward 
abstractionism. Though it may not loom large in 
the vast body of her work, it assumes impor- 
tance as a transitional piece and as the first of 
Stein's compositions in the new style to gain 
publicity. Shortly after it was written, Mabel 
Dodge had it printed, sent copies of it to her 
friends, and soon took it to New York, where 
early in 1913 she published a critical essay on it 
called "Speculations" (Art and Decoration, March 
1913). Though it has been denied intrinsic merit, 
it has been noted that in comparison to Stein's 
"monotonous repetitiveness" in the earlier por- 
traits, "this one does constantly stretch and test 
the imagination." (Bridgman, GSIP, 121) 

When "The Portrait of Mabel Dodge" was first 
circulated it provoked conflicting responses. To 
Leo it was sheer nonsense (Journey, 55). Mabel 
Weeks neither understood nor enjoyed it 
("Mabel Weeks didn't like my last manner.") 
Logan Pearsall Smith was, his friends thought 
inexplicably, delighted with it. Mildred Aldrich 
seemed to learn something about Mabel from 
reading it ("Mildred Aldrich just read it and said 
she had no idea you were so energetic and com- 
fortable" (M&S, 30). Mabel herself bubbled over 
with enthusiasm: 

I must snatch a lucid moment when "argument is 
clear" to tell you that I consider the "Portrait" to 
be a masterpiece of success from my (& your) 
point of view as a portrait of me as I am to 
others. (FFF, 65) 

She regarded it as an accurate description of 

In fact it is so faithful a portrait as, I think, to pro- 
duce about the same effects as myself were the 

truth always said! I think it better &l better as time 
goes on & they say more & more things. Some 
days I don't understand it, but sometimes I don't 
understand myself, past or about to come. (FFF, 

If we are to find a resemblance between Mabel 
Dodge and her portrait we need to know 
something about her. From the autobiographical 
writings and correspondence of these two 
women we glean something of the time, place, 
and circumstances of the composition of the por- 
trait as well as what each thought of the other, 
but Stein's comments on Mabel Dodge are few, 
brief, and guarded. In The Autobiography of Alice 
B. Toklas Mabel is described as "a stoutish 
woman with a very sturdy fringe of heavy hair 
over her forehead, heavy long lashes, very pretty 
eyes and a very old-fashioned coquetry" (159) 
and Berenson is reported to have called her a 
"femme fatale." (132) In her Intimate Memories 
Mabel devoted a chapter to The Steins (Ger- 
trude and Leo). 

According to Mabel, she first met Gertrude 
Stein in 1911, when on a visit to Paris, she was 
taken by a mutual friend to a Saturday evening 
at 27 rue de Fleurus. She returned to Florence 
with the manuscript of Stein's Making of 
Americans and presently wrote a letter to express 
her admiration for it. Judging from the saluta- 
tion and signature on this letter, dated April 

1911, which opens "Dear Miss Stein" and closes 
with "Always sincerely yours with the greatest 
admiration, — Mabel Dodge," (FFF, 52) their 
relationship was formal. Stein must have been in 
Florence in the late spring or early summer of 

1912, for there is a letter dated June 23, 1912, in 
which Mabel now addresses "Dear Gertrude," 
speaks of missing her, reports a "screamingly 
funny" episode that has just occurred, and signs 
"with love." (FFF, 60-62) Their friendship lasted 
until after the publication of Tender Buttons in 
1914; after that for reasons probably involving 
Stein's egotism as a writer, the friendship lapsed. 

"The Portrait of Mabel Dodge at the Villa 
Curonia" originally had an alternate title: 
"Mabel little Mabel with her face against the 
pane." (Bridgman, GSIP, 120) Though the pun 
on pane/pain is obvious, the words and rhythm 
are tinged with satire and have an overtone of 
sentimentality. It is hard to take Mabel Dodge 
seriously, yet she has a certain literary stature in 
her own right and she managed to know a great 
many of the most talked-about contemporary ar- 
tists and writers of her time. Though in 1912 she 
had as yet been married only twice, she 
ultimately had four husbands at the churchdoor, 
not to mention other company in youth and 
middle age. Her career was launched, when, a 
young widow with an infant son, shortly after 


the death of Karl Evans, her first husband, she 
married Edwin Dodge, a wealthy American ar- 
chitect. Since she was as strongly attracted to 
women as to men, she probably married Edwin 
Dodge for the security and stability marriage en- 
tailed. For her day she was certainly an eman- 
cipated women, but no feminist. Fred B. Millet 
called her "one of the most striking if 
preposterous figures on the contemporary scene." 

Her massive series of autobiographical volumes 
. . .are chapters in one of the most amazing 
autobiographies written by an American woman. 
Mrs. Luhan had the fascinated self-absorption of 
the born diarist and autobiographer. She is pro- 
bably as honest a person as one of her essentially 
romantic nature can be. Unmatched. . .as a collec- 
tor of literary and artistic personalities, Mrs. 
Luhan after her escape from the convention-ridden 
life of bourgeois Buffalo, gathered around her in 
New York, Italy, and New Mexico, an amazing 
number of names that make literary news. Exac- 
ting and wilful, mystical and ruthless, she has 
made her way through the lives of countless ad- 
mirers and hangers-on. Of herself and her 
associates, she writes with impressive if embarrass- 
ing frankness. (Contemporary American Authors, 
1940, 175-6) 

In Stein's portrait of her there are the barest 
hints of her self-absorption, her romantic nature, 
her wilfulness, and her ruthlessness. Whether 
she appeared "preposterous" to Stein is difficult 
to determine, but Stein understood her roman- 
ticism. We catch glimpses of it in a group of 
words expressing kinds of pleasure: "delight" ("A 
delight is not bent," para. 10), "bliss' ("This is 
this bliss," para. 12), "pleasing" ("There can be 
pleasing classing clothing," para. 13), "predilec- 
tion" ("There is the comfort of predilection," 
para. 15), "pleasure" ("There is that pleasure," 
para. 18, and "There is no pleasure," para. 21), 
"laughing" (Laughing is not evaporating," para. 
14), "smiling" ("There is that smiling," para. 14), 
"beguiling" (". . .which is beguiling," para. 14), 
and finally "not solemn" (". . .relieving that 
situation is not solemn," para. 22). It is Mabel's 
imperious manner we hear in "An argument is 
clear," (para. 4), and her presence we feel in the 
following sentences: 

Gliding is not heavily moving. Looking is not 
vanishing. Laughing is not evaporating. There can 
be the climax, (para. 14) 

We learn from reading Mabel Dodge's Intimate 
Memories, especially the second volume, European 
Experiences, that Mabel's marriage to Edwin 
Dodge was for her a pedestrian affair. Though 
he supplied her with a safe base of operations in 
her forays into more romantic affairs, she was 
never a contented wife: 

But this Boston man, in his superficial way making 
everything common place!. . .What a universe bet- 

ween him and me! I so deep, so fatal, and so 
glamorous — and he so ordinary and matter of fact! 
Little does he guess of the layers upon layers of 
perception of understanding, of feeling for things, 
that I carry locked in me. The things 1 know! (EE, 

Her role as hostess of the Villa Curonia became 
for her a compensation for a loveless marriage. 
She directed her energies toward making of the 
Villa Curonia a beautiful setting for the woman 
she wanted to be. In thus seeking to create for 
herself a satisfying persona, she succeeded to a 
certain extent, but it did not ring true: "How 
can I be expected to permeate this place with a 
fictitious personality! It's a miracle, what I am 
doing!" she protested. (EE, 153) In her detailed 
description of the Villa — its environs, its court- 
yard, gardens, rooms, its furniture, draperies, 
and art objects — she speaks of a carved door 
frame, which was placed against a solid wall in 
the north salon. For her the door was symbolic: 
"This door was a very fair symbol of myself at 
that time, for it led nowhere. Like the fireplace 
in the hall (the fireplace had no chimney) it was 
only for effect." (EE, 147) In fact as she looked 
at her life, the Villa became for her a prison: 

The Villa Curonia loomed sumptuously about me, 
heavy, golden. . .carried so far towards perfection, 
it seem important to me,— a career in itself. I had 
given so much though to it— so much time— I had 
lived desperately and in despair into every nuance 
and every glint seeking to lose my desire in them. 
In a lack of love I had tried to pass out of longing 
into materials — and out of passion I had built my 
house. Now I was caught and entangled in 
it— inseparable from it. (EE, 174) 

It is tantalizing to search for correspondences 
between Mabel Dodge's long description of the 
villa and specific passages in Stein's portrait. 
With a little stretching of the imagination, a 
possible connection can be seen between the 
door leading nowhere and a door mentioned in 
the portrait: "there is the wide door that is nar- 
row on the floor." (para. 21) Again, Mabel spoke 
of "a secret little garden all mouldy and with 
lichens on its flagstones," (EE, 140) which would 
have been destroyed had certain remodeling 
plans gone into effect with regard to the con- 
struction of a more imposing entrance to the 
villa. Shortly after the decision had been made 
to spare the secret little garden, Edwin acciden- 
tally "uncovered a completely buried courtyard 
of the best Brunelleschi type, two stories high, 
encircling three sides of the east interior of the 
Villa." (EE, 141) Once excavated this courtyard 
served as the main entrance and enlarged the 
villa. In Stein's portrait we find the following 
sentence: "Abandon a garden and the house is 
bigger." (para. 15) To accept this correlation may 

require an extraordinary stretching of the im- 

In a letter to Gertrude Stein dated June 24, 
1912, Mabel gives an amusing account of the an- 
tics of the resident ghost which disturbed some 
distinguished guests — among them the Jo 
Davidsons. At one point Mrs. Davidson "sud- 
denly left the table & dashed into the garden. 
We paid no attention but she came back soon &. 
had hysterics saying someone behind her chair 
had pushed her out of the room." (FFF,61) In 
the "Portrait of Mabel Dodge" occurs the follow- 
ing passage: 

A plank that was not dry was not disturbing the 
smell of burning and altogether there was the best 
kind of sitting there could never be all the edging 
that the largest chair was having. It was not push- 
ed. It moved then. There was not that lifting." 
(para. 16) 

In Mabel's account of the event, a priest was 
called in, who performed the service of exorcism, 
and Mabel writes: "We made a pageant thro' all 
the rooms while he exorcised 6k blessed all 
over." (FFF, 61) In the "Portrait of Mabel 
Dodge" we find a reference to prayer: "Praying 
has intention and relieving that situation is not 
solemn. There comes that way." One further 
detail from the letter may possibly be relevant. 
One night, to quell the panic among her guests, 
Mabel tried to have them all do "deep breathing 
exercises" to calm them — a detail which may be 
reflected in the three sentences of "The Portrait" 
that begin, "So much breathing." (para. 3) I 
shall return to these three sentences again in 
this paper. 

There are many terms in the "Portrait of Mabel 
Dodge" that suggest the furnishings and the ac- 
tivities of a busy household. Stein characterizes 
the general life at the Villa Curonia in the one- 
sentence opening paragraph: "The days are 
wonderful and the nights are wonderful and the 
life is pleasant." In her autobiography Mabel 
Dodge describes the usual routine of life at the 
villa amid the unending procession of visitors: 

People coming to stay, motor drives all about the 
country to visit villages or hunt antichita, the 
usual, almost daily trips to and back for errands, 
for the sake of seeing someone, or for calls. . .(EE, 

In the "Portrait of Mabel Dodge" this kind of ac- 
tivity — the buying, the visiting, the arrivals and 
departures — appears in such words as "bargain- 
ing," (para. 2) "packing," (para. 5) "the expedi- 
tion," (para. 7) "departure," (para. 18) "Nobody 
is alone," (para. 10) and "Everyone was exchang- 
ing returning. . .The whole day is that way. Any 
one is resting to say that the time which is not 
reverberating is acting in partaking." (para. 19) 
There are references to "blankets," (para. 3) "a 

bottle," (para. 8) "a vase," (para. 15) "the hall," 
(para. 5) "a velvet spread." (para. 17) There is 
even "that little wagon," (para. 10) which along 
with "the toy that is not round," (para. 19) may 
have belonged to little John Evans, Mabel's son 
by her first husband. 

But let us turn the kaleidescope a little and look 
at another pattern in "The Portrait of Mabel 
Dodge." In European Experiences, in the chapter 
devoted to the Steins, Mabel first tells that in 
the absence of Edwin (it may be this absence 
that Stein refers to in "The absence is not alter- 
native," (para. 3) she put Gertrude in Edwin's 
study next to the "linen-hung northern room" 
where she herself always slept in hot weather. 
She put Alice B. Toklas next to Gertrude "in 
the little bedroom with the staircase running 
down from it." (EE, 326) She then gives a pic- 
ture of Stein working late at night, seated 

. . .at Edwin's table next door writing automatical- 
ly in a long weak handwriting — four or five lines 
to the page — letting it come up from deep down 
inside her, down onto the paper with the least 
possible physical effort. (EE, 328) 

On the third night after Gertrude and Alice ar- 
rived, Mabel tells us that she was visited in her 
room by John's handsome tutor, who was "in 
love with me just as a matter of course." His 
"blond, fresh, blue-eyed youthfulness" and his 
"long limbs and swaying shoulders" had become 
for Mabel "a great allurement of the flesh," but 
as she explains it she "didn't dare to take him" 
because of her marriage vow of faith to Edwin. 
Still she did not send the amorous young man 
away, when in the bright light of "a hot August 
moon," he "crept along the red-tiled passage and 
breathed my name against the door." She admit- 
ted him with caution, however, for though the 
walls were thick, the doors were "just ordinary 
ones." The couple stood in a close embrace un- 
til, overtaken by fatigue, they "swayed toward 
the wide, white-hung bed — lying in one 
another's arms in the white moonlight." Only 
after the moon had "slid" away and the room 
had become "black dark" did the young man 
take his stealthy departure. Little was said dur- 
ing this visit, Mabel says. At first she kept bab- 
bling, "I can't— I can't— I can't." As he left he 
"breathed into her ear, 'I love you so— and the 
wonderful thing about you is that you're 
good!' " At the end of her description of this 
romantic encounter, Mabel quotes from Stein's 
"Portrait": "And then there was that little 
wagon. . ." But she quotes inaccurately; the 
passage actually reads: "There had been that lit- 
tle wagon." (para. 10) 

Gertrude Stein's awareness of what was going on 
on the other side of the connecting door is 
scarcely questioned by James R. Mellow, who 


finds in the "Portrait of Mabel Dodge" veiled 
reflections of this "comically prolonged seduction 
scene" in such terms as "adulteration" (with the 
overtones of adultery, para. 3) and "so much 
breathing" (repeated three times, para. 3). 
(Charmed Circle, 167-9). To me, too, it seems 
probable that Stein, no matter how concen- 
trated her attention, was conscious, at least 
subliminally (on the fringe of her awareness), of 
the young man's footsteps in the red-tiled cor- 
ridor leading to the stairs. A sentence in "The 
Portrait" reads: 

A walk that is not stepped where the floor is 
covered is not the place where the room is 
entered, (para. 20) 

And the portrait ends with a reference to a visit: 
"There is not all of any visit." 

With this scene in mind, "The Portrait of Mabel 
Dodge" becomes mildly pornographic, and I find 
it interesting that speaking of abstract painting, 
Stein once said, "There is no such thing. The 
minute that painting gets abstract it get por- 
nographic. This is a fact." (EA, 127) She also 
said, "My middle writing was painting," (EA, 
180) and "I am trying to do abstract portraits in 
my medium, words." (Loc. cit., Bridgman, GSIP, 
120) When words become as ambiguous and as 
"open" as they seem to be in "Mabel Dodge," a 
reader may find doubles entendres everywhere 
and so read into the text meanings that are sud- 
denly there for him willy nilly. (I remember this 
happening when I came upon "a pink tender 
descender" in Tender Buttons.) 

In Seven Types of Ambiguity William Empson 
refers to writers who write with the "whole 
weight" of their language, and he gives two ex- 
amples: Racine in French and Dryden in 
English. In the same breath he mentions Ger- 
trude Stein, who, he says, "implores the passing 
tribute of a sigh." (STA, 7) Of ambiguities there 
is no end in the writings of Stein's middle 
period, but unlike the ambiguities that concern- 
ed Empson, Stein's ambiguities are neither 
definite nor easily detachable. This is so, I think, 
because (as I have already suggested) the ostensi- 
ble subjects of many of her compositions are ac- 
tually their occasions rather than their main 
subjects. E. A. Robinson once asked Mabel 
Dodge a pertinent question: "How do you know 
that it is a portrait of you, after all?" (M ck S, 
137) Before Stieglitz met Mabel Dodge he was 
baffled by her portrait, but after he had met her 
he exclaimed, "I understand the portrait perfect- 
ly, now I've met her!" (FFF, 74) It should not be 
forgotten that Mabel herself felt that some days 
she did not understand it. Carl Van Vechten 
once said of Mabel Dodge that for her marriage 
was "but a springboard to a higher life." (EA, 

242) Perhaps for Gertrude Stein, Mabel and her 
villa served merely as a springboard — not exact- 
ly to a higher life, but to another level of 
discourse closer to her aesthetic concerns as an 

In "Portraits and Repetition" Stein associated 
the "Portrait of Mabel Dodge" with Tender But- 
tons, indicating that they arose out of the same 
impulse by quoting passages from both to il- 
lustrate her effort to create "by simply looking." 
(LIA, 191) It was my contention in Gertrude 
Stein and the Present that Tender Buttons 
represented on the part of Gertrude Stein a pro- 
cess of self-realization and a ritual celebration of 
her escape from habit and custom into a new 
creativity — and that "Rooms," the third part, 
marked the culmination of this attempt. Read in 
the ambience of "Rooms," with its "container" 
words, the Villa Curonia becomes what it ac- 
tually was — a "container" for Mabel Dodge — a 
container from which she longed to escape — 
and Stein's alternate title for Mabel's portrait — 
"Mabel little Mabel with her face against the 
pane" bears out this idea in a general way. It 
seems to me, however, that both Tender Buttons 
and the "Portrait of Mabel Dodge at the Villa 
Curonia" reveal Stein's preoccupation with the 
processes by which a writer's creative intuitions 
come to verbal expression. In other words, she 
was engaged in exploring the contents of the 
stream of her own consciousness — not in Freu- 
dian terms but in terms of the mental processes 
described by William James in his Principles of 
Psychology: sensation, imagination, perception (of 
things, space, and of time), conception (involving 
the perception of sameness, discrimination and 
comparison), association, and memory. 

It is pertinent at this point to call attention to 
the one proper name in the "Portrait of Mabel 
Dodge" — the given name William, which ap- 
pears in the midst of a series of short sentences: 
"There has been William." (para. 14) It seems 
quite unrelated to what precedes and follows it 
in the paragraph and I have discovered no 
William in Mabel Dodge's memoirs to whom it 
might refer, but there is Stein's old teacher of 
psychology, the great William James, who had 
just died in 1910, and whose theories of con- 
sciousness emphasized consciousness as an un- 
broken stream — its contents ever changing, its 
states never recurring in exactly the same way, 
its parts comprised of substantive and transitive 
elements and "feelings of relation." 

What really seems to me to link together Stein's 
compositions between 1909 and 1912 (and later) 
is a vocabulary expressive of psychological pro- 


According to Stein's account of her Tender But- 
tons period, her words became increasingly 
detached from their ordinary associations: 

And the thing that excited me very much at this 
time and still does is that the words or words that 
make what I looked at be itself were always words 
that to me very exactly related themselves to that 
thing the thing at which I was looking, but as 
often as not had as I say nothing whatever to do 
with what any words would do that described that 
thing. (LI A, 192) 

When she spoke here of words "that related 
themselves to the thing at which I was looking," 
she implied a minimum of conscious choice — 
the words "related themselves" to the object of 
perception. This naturally raises the question of 
automatic writing. Was she writing in a state of 
relaxed or dispersed attention, or was her atten- 
tion concentrated upon its object? I think she 
tried to write in all of these mental states, but in 
"Rooms" and "Mabel Dodge" the reader is very 
much aware of a conscious agency and sustained 
attention. None of the words seem to arise from 
"random association," but appear to be used 
very precisely, though in contexts that baffle the 

Actually the difficulty in establishing what is be- 
ing said in "Mabel Dodge" derives from a per- 
vasive vagueness or generality in the objects and 
actions named. Though the sentences follow 
conventional grammatical syntax, they have on- 
ly a minimal grammatical subject, some beginn- 
ing with the demonstratives "this" or "that;" 
others, with the pronouns "it" or "they;" still 
others, with "there" with pronominal force in 
impersonal constructions ("there is," "there 
came," "there can be," etc.). A few gerunds 
name general activities but name no agency 
("bargaining," para. 2; "breathing," para. 3; 
"packing," para. 4; "gliding," "looking," 
"laughing," para. 14; "praying," para. 22). At 
one moment rhymes appear briefly ("same"- 
"shame;" "same" - "name," para. 18 & 19) as 
though something had invited the mind to play; 
similarly in a long paragraph in which nineteen 
of the sentences begin with "there" used with 
pronominal force, is one playful sentence full of 
alliteration and punning: "There is the likeliness 
lying in liking likely likeliness." (para. 14) 

Interspersed among the generalities, such things 
as a bottle, a vase, or a wagon give the reader a 
deceptive sense of familiarity. Take the word 
"wagon," for example. It happens to be one of 
the words in "Mabel Dodge" (there are many 
others) that are to be found in other composi- 
tions of the period. Following Wilder's sugges- 
tion to Stein's "future commentators," I have 
brought together five passages in which "wagon" 
occurs: two from Two: Gertrude Stein and Her 


Brother, two from Tender Buttons, and one from 
"Mabel Dodge:" 

He had the alteration of the remaining wagon 
and he did not then feel that he had the skin that 
was burning when there was there what had come 
to be there in and out in swimming. He was not 
analogous. (Two, 128) 

Correlation between the past and the connection 
is not the only way to achieve expression. The 
logic and the conception and the actuality in the 
wagon all that which is not prearranged is con- 
vincing. (Two, 129) 

A cause and no curve, a cause and loud enough, a 
cause and extra a loud clash and an extra wagon, 
a sign of extra, a sac a small sac and an establish- 
ed color and cunning, a slender grey and no rib- 
bon, this means a great loss and a restitution. 
(Tender Buttons - "Mildred's Umbrella" from "Ob- 

To begin the placing there is no wagon. There is 
no change lighter. It was done. And then the 
spreading, that was not accomplishing that needed 
standing, and yet the time was not so difficult as 
they were not all in place. . ." (Tender Buttons, 
"Rooms," para. 4) 

All the attention is when there is not enough to 
do. This does not determine a question. The only 
reason that there is not that pressure is that there 
is a suggestion. There are many going. A delight is 
not bent. There has been that little wagon. There 
is that precision when there has not been an im- 
agination. There has not been that kind of aban- 
donment. Nobody is alone. (MD, para. 10) 

Whatever "wagon" meant to Stein, in at least 
four of the five passages quoted, it scarcely 
signifies the familiar wain or four-wheeled vehi- 
cle for hauling, and in three of these passages it 
appears in a context containing hints of mental 
processes. In Two (p. 129) it is associated with 
"expression," "logic," "conception" and "actuali- 
ty;" in "Rooms" it is placed near "change" and 
"time" and the activities of "placing" and 
"spreading." In the "Mabel Dodge" paragraph it 
occurs in a context containing "attention," 
"question," "suggestion," "precision" and "im- 
agination." Since all of these words associated 
with "wagon" are relevant to processes of 
thought and feeling, I hazard a guess that 
"wagon" stands for some kind of "relation" or 
"connection" — a "vehicle" in a train of 
thought. (My audience must bear with this 
highly speculative idea. I offer it tentatively, yet 
with conviction.) 

If the "Portrait of Mabel Dodge" is read with the 
processes of consciousness in mind, other words 
assume significance — "intention," for example, 
which occurs three times in the first seven 

The intention is what if application has that acci- 
dent results are reappearing, (para. 2) 

This does not assure the forgetting of the inten- 
tion when there has been and there is every way 
to send some. (para. 6) 

As the expedition is without the participation of 
the question there will be nicely all that energy. 
They can arrange that the little color is not 
bestowed. They can leave it in regaining that in- 
tention. It is mostly repaid. There can be an ir- 
rigation. They can have the whole paper and they 
send it in some package. It is not inundated, (para. 

I suggest that Stein's "intention" in the "Portrait 
of Mabel Dodge" was essentially to overcome the 
limitations of language habits and the modes of 
conceptual abstraction in the expression of the 
immediate data of consciousness, and particular- 
ly to explore the interstices in a concatenated 
stream of thought in the hope of catching on 
the wing the fleeting "feelings of relation," many 
of which, according to James are so vague as to 
be unnamed. James had sought to re-instate the 
vague in mental life and in doing so had noted 
the richness and complexity of the stream of 

Every definite image in the mind is steeped and 
dyed in the free water that flows round it. With it 
goes the sense of its relations, near and remote, 
the dying echo of whence it came to us, the dawn- 
ing sense of whither it is to lead. The significance, 
the value, of the image is all in this halo or 
penumbra that surrounds and escorts it. . .(P., I, 

In the "Portrait of Mabel Dodge" such terms as 
"collected dim version" and "gnarled division" 
(para. 11 ck 12) suggest this "halo" or "penum- 
bra" accompanying a definite image. 

Anyone who is interested in Stein's vocabulary 
may well examine her use of such words as 
"climate," "spread" and "spreading," "door," or 
"garden." One group of words in "Mabel 
Dodge" seems to me to refer to the "free water 
of consciousness," each of which represents a dif- 
ferent degree of wetness or fluidity (vagueness 
and speed?); "water," (para. 3) "irrigation," (para. 
7) "inundation," (para. 7) "sprinkling," (para. 11) 
"dry," (para. 14) "sap," (para. 14) and "paste." 
(para. 14) In the general context of the stream of 
consciousness, these terms suggest different 
degrees of mental spontaneity, which would be 
minimal in "paste," lively in "sap," scattered in 
"sprinkling," moving in habitual channels in "ir- 
rigation" and overflowing in "inundation." 

One sentence in the "Portrait of Mabel Dodge" 
seems to me to reveal most clearly Stein's 
deliberate exploration of the borderline between 
spontaneity and automatism in quest of 
originality: "There is the use of the stone and 
there is the place of the stuff and there is the 
practice of expending questioning." (para. 23) In 

emphasizing the uniqueness of every individual's 
stream of consciousness, James said: 

The mind. . .works on the data it receives very 
much as a sculptor works on his block of stone. In 
a sense the statue stood there from eternity. But 
there were a thousand different ones beside it, and 
the sculptor alone is to thank for having extricated 
this one from the rest. Just as the world of each of 
us, howsoever different our several views of it may 
be, all lay embedded in the primordial chaos of 
sensations, which gave the mere matter to all of us 
indifferently. (P.I., 288) 

(I have often thought that Stein enjoyed the pun 
involved in "stone-Stein" and made use of it.) 

As to Stein's state of consciousness in the com- 
position of "Mabel Dodge" — I see her as Mabel 
described her, seated in Edwin's study in the 
night, writing — not automatically — but in the 
state of mind reflected by what she says of "in- 
tention" and "breathing:" 

The intention is what if application has that acci- 
dent results are reappearing, (para. 2) 

So much breathing has not the same place when 
there is that much beginning. So much breathing 
has not the same place when the ending is lessen- 
ing. So much breathing has the same place and 
there must not be so much suggestion. There can 
be there the habit that there is if there is no need 
of resting. The absence is not alternative, (para. 3) 

Is the "Portrait of Mabel Dodge at the Villa 
Curonia" simultaneously a revelation of Mabel's 
essential nature, a veiled account of a seduction 
scene, a record of an episode involving a ghost, 
and an exploration of the processes of aesthetic 
perception? I am afraid my detective story re- 
mains unsolved. Under any circumstance I 
believe the solution must be partial: "There is 
not all of any visit." 


ABT The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas 

CR Creative Evolution 

EA Everybody's Autobiography 

EE European Experiences (Vol. II of Intimate Memories) 

FFF The Flowers of Friendship: Letters written to Gertrude 

FIA Four in America 

GHA The Geographical History of America, or The Rela- 
tion of Human Nature to the Human Mind 

GSIP Gertrude Stein in Pieces 

LIA Lectures in America 

M&.S Movers and Shakers (Vol. Ill of Intimate Memories) 

P Principles of Psychology, (2 Vols.) 

STA Seven Types of Ambiguity 

TB Tender Buttons 

SW Selected Writings of Gertrude Stein 

TWO Two: Gertrude Stein and Her Brother 

Allegra Stewart received her Ph.D. at the University of London. She 
was Professor of English at Butler University for many years. She is the 
author of Gertrude Stein and the Present , Harvard University Press, 
1967. This paper was delivered at the Special Session on Gertrude Stein 
at the annual meeting of the Modem Language Association in Chicago 
in J 977. Dr. Stewart lives in Indianapolis. 




Carole Spearin McCauley 


Her professional name is G.H. Rothe. In her for- 
ties, she's German by birth. She studied first to 
be a jeweler. Leaving a complicated family situa- 
tion, she arrived alone in this country via South 
America in 1970. As a freelance artist, she now 
supports herself, an assistant, and a home in 
California. Several distributors, including Ed- 
ward Weston Graphics and Original Print Col- 
lectors Group, Ltd., have handled her mezzotint 
prints made from copperplate etchings. Her oil 
paintings and prints are now exclusive with 
Hammer Galleries, New York (East Coast) and 
Atelier Gallery, Carmel, California (West 
Coast). Among 30 U.S. corporate collectors, Bell 
Telephone bought one of her drawings for a 
Manhattan phone book. Royal Doulton 
(England) commissioned her painting of a 
firebird and other subjects for reproduction on 
heritage series of fine china plates. The film The 
Exorcist displays some of her metal sculpture -she 
did the silver head and the little bronze devil 
from which the large Assyrian figure was 
assembled on the movie set. 

She has had 50 one-woman shows and many 
more group shows. Galleries, museums, and 
private collectors have purchased her work in 
this country and Europe. She's a meticulous 
craftswoman with attention to art as drawing, 
form, technique, the natural human figure set in 
a surrealistic (but not chilling) landscape. 

G.H. Rothe currently lives in Carmel, Califor- 
nia. I saw her there recently— six feet off the 
ground upon a scaffolding, for a well-known 
restaurant had commissioned her to do a 36' x 
24' mural of the Carmel hills on one of its cour- 
tyard walls. Having labored for months, she was 
just completing it. 

The following interview occurs in her New York 

"A work of art is a work. . .an achievement of 
order, passionately conceived and passionately 
carried out. We see human thought and feeling 
best and clearest by seeing it through something 
solid that our hands have made." Eudora Welty 

"I have met brave women exploring the outer 
edge of human possibility, with no history to 
guide them, and with a courage to make 

themselves vulnerable that I find moving beyond 
the words to express it." Gloria Steinem 

With sunlight flooding the high windows, Gatja 
Rothe's studio in lower Manhattan is white on 
white. White desk at which she draws and paints, 
white shelf for sketch pads, white wall with posters 
showing her drawings in German and American 
shows plus an American portfolio series of her prints, 
more white walls above the massive press on which 
she does her own printings of large (3' x 4') cop- 
perplate etchings. 

The range of her professional talents - drawing, 
painting, etching, goldsmithing, jewelry design - is 
extraordinary. Other practical abilities include car 
repair, electrical installation, interior decoration, 
costume design (she has outfitted a dance troupe). 

B} herself she redid her seven-room New York apart- 
ment, including sanding floors and woodwork, 
refinishing walls, building her own chairs and swing- 
ing sofa of chrome, leather, and wood. A fifteen-foot 
painting, a design of green branches and leaves, 
radiates around her living room ceiling. It's one of 
her few reminders of rural life or perhaps the forests 
of southern Germany that surrounded the house she 
lived in. "The trees were like big beasts clawing the 
windows," she remembers. The suburbs are for 
sleeping. It's the movement of New York and other 
cities that excites her. 

She's an active, enthusiastic person, a very human 
combination of courage and cope-ability with some 
evident anger when business acquaintances or friends 
fail her. Her soft voice blends formal, accented 
English with the latest New York slang. Her first 
names - Gatja (Russian-Polish) and Helgart (Ger- 
man) - indicate her background and the history 
through which she has lived. Her last name is pro- 
nounced RO-teh. 

G.H. Rothe arrived alone in this country via South 
America in 1 970. Her talents now earn a living for 
herself and a teenage son. 


An idea comes by itself but not from a vacuum. 
It can't be fixed through only one painting and 
may need ten, twenty, fifty or more. It's not a 
vision; that would imply something beyond reali- 
ty. Rather an idea comes through my environ- 
ment and way of living, how I perceive the at- 
mosphere of a city like New York - what is 
behind and between surfaces. It comes from a 
process of work, thought, and experience; it's a 
way of looking around me. An idea is never a 
separate entity like a star I suddenly see. What 
finally appears has a long history. 








I'm not referring to painting technique now. 


Not for me. Because I'm a painter and begin 
work with a brush or pencil on canvas or paper, 
it may look to an outsider as if the idea has ar- 
rived from nowhere but not to someone involv- 

What to Paint 

Ms. Rothe is fascinated with the power of 
transparency and glass to reveal reality or truth. She 
keeps small bell jars in her studio. Contrast her 
work with Sylvia Plath's novel, The Bell far. Sylvia 
Plath's jar was a metaphor for suffocation, the 
solitude of mental illness that clamped and isolated 
her heroine, first inside her own head, then in a 
sanatarium. Ms. Rothe's glass, however, reveals 
human beings in a surrealistic, but not horrifying, 
landscape of delicately drawn pinks, lavenders, 
blues. Compared with Plath, she's probably an op- 
timist about the power of art to affect and change 
people by revealing them to themselves. 

Of her paintings (for which she grinds pigments 
herself), ]ohn Faulkner of Art News noted 
"translucence and warmth which causes her images 
to glow from within." 


Long years ago, when I was a child. 


Well, there are instants of communication, but 
doesn't everybody ultimately want to live his or 
her own life, make her own choices?. . . 
Transparency fascinated me in the way I 
discovered it. It opens people to themselves, in- 
dicates prejudices. If you really examine my 
work, I paint glass and its contents but also 
make the contents themselves transparent. In 
painter's language, glass is the see-through-est 
thing I can paint. 


I wouldn't go that far. I don't attempt to envi- 
sion everybody's inside. That would claim total 
success at what many others also attempt? For 
me it remains a goal, a process. 

How to Paint 

Gatja Rothe is a meticulous craftswoman with care 
for painting and drawing as concept, discipline, 
perfection of technique. Although self expression and 
impulse are important to her, they are secondary. 


No! I consider accident as failure in concentra- 
tion. As you know, I need weeks for one of my 
paintings. But if I must paint more quickly in 
order to finish something, one of my work ses- 
sions can last 24 hours or more. Concentration 
during all that time is impossible so accidents 
can happen - but rarely. They happen more 
often when I'm disturbed by something or 


No. I know techniques of painting to prevent 
that. Technique is the painter's language. When 
he or she has mastered that, then she can begin 
to speak. It looks easy to handle a brush, but 
perfection of technique requires thousands of at- 
tempts. If a painter knows technique, no acci- 
dent should happen. 


Of course. But there are many ways to handle a 
given subject matter. For example, the "action 
painters" achieve so much life through letting 
their impulses direct the brush or the paint. Yet 
their method is exactly opposite to mine because 
my impetus is mental or spiritual. Yet both ap- 
proaches accomplish the same end, what pain- 
ting has always tried to do - to make life visi' 

Painting Is Work 

Willa Cather once wrote that an artist, like other 
humans, has a social function to perform, that if you 
achieve anything noble or enduring, it must be by 
giving yourself absolutely to your material. This gift 
of sympathy is your "great gift, the fine thing that 
alone can make your work fine." 


I paint at least twelve hours a day - or night. To 
relax I turn to another kind of work. If I sit 
down and begin to paint, after some hours I'm 
"in it". Then comes a period, after six or seven 


hours, when I'm in something like a trance. This 
happens with whatever work I do but especially 
with creative work. It takes an unbelievable 
amount of discipline to reach that point, but 
once you've experienced it, you can do without 
everything and everybody. 

For me this is the ideal way to live. 


Yes. At least its demands are not primary. I see 
myself as a tool for what I do. Therefore I've ar- 
ranged my life in order to accomplish my work. 


Everything does. . .But my paintings are not 
dreams. They're real, not fantastic. The human 
bodies, their faces, skin and veins, the glass - 
aren't they visible? Aren't they real? 


Certainly. The whole painting is already com- 
plete in my mind. To turn this image into a 
reality requires plenty of patience and discipline. 

Many years ago when I began drawing, I tried to 
illustrate my night dreams. No more. My night 
dreams are just mirrors of what I do. That's 
become more important than the dreams. 


My work life is continuous. 


There are many techniques, but I know through 
my own way of using color and design when 
something should be said in a painting rather 
than a drawing. Sometimes I want to say it in 

Gatja Rothe has embarked upon a series of limited 
editions of ballet dancer prints done painstakingly 
from copperplates via the seventeenth century mezzo- 
tint process. Briefly, this involves preparing the 
plate's surface by roughening it, covering it with tiny 
depressions or pits by repeatedly "rocking" a toothed 
steel tool vertically, horizontally, diagonally. She also 
uses a roller ("roulette") mounted on a handle to 
achieve the same effect. This roughened surface, the 

"burr,'' is what holds the ink, provides the darkly 
velvet background texture. 

The next operation engraves the image lines onto the 
plate by burnishing away the roughened parts with a 
specially shaped chisel ("burin") or a steel needle. 
The smoother the area burnished, the less ink it will 
hold. If returned to original smoothness, it will hold 
none at all. The artist thus gains a full range of tints 
from black (or darkest ink) to white. Mezzotint br- 
ings light out of darkness. Unlike aquatint, the pro- 
cess uses no acid - only handwork - to etch the plate. 

The third operation is inking, done by applying col- 
ors - brown, red, green, blue, or black - with pieces 
of cardboard. Gatja Rothe then works the color into 
the plate with the side of her hand to achieve the ex- 
act amount in different areas. Each inking may take 
45 minutes and must be repeated, print by print, on 
damp paper until the run through her press is com- 
plete. The 4-of-100-each edition of her Dance port- 
folio required over 400 hours merely for inking and 

She comments: "Mezzotint technique is so direct, 
and being a jeweler, I have always had a special 
relationship with metal. Perhaps I like it because it 
is so difficult." 

Such technical concentration does not, however, pro- 
duce anything that resembles "machine art". Two 
different critics have noted her "sensual, often 
erotic" mezzotint images, how in her work "Indepen- 
dent figures interpenetrate a single fantasy space of 
visionary architecture in which all pulses with high 
voltage eroticism." The Museum of Erotic Art, 
Toronto, has collected one of her pen and ink draw- 

Besides celebrating the human form in dance, her 
subject matter includes pastoral scenes, horses, 
flowers, shells, urban landscapes. 

Getting Started 


I'd like to say "by nobody," but that's not true. 
Well, I wasn't encouraged because it wasn't 
usual that anybody in Germany or in my family 
listened to a girl when she said she wanted to be 
an artist. At first it was impossible for me, and I 
even had to learn another profession, jewelry 
making, because that was my father's will. 

I have four brothers; we're all jewelers. My 
father educated us with so much love and 
motivated us always toward jewelry. Because this 
love was so strong, I never dared say I wanted 
something else. But finally I felt it necessary to 
leave my parents. I took a job in a factory that 
mass produced jewelry. Then I discovered I 
didn't have to do jewelry of any kind any more. 

Finally I enrolled in a painting class where other 


young people were doing what I yearned to do. 
For the first time I saw that fine art wasn't a 
weird activity. I was not surrounded by people 
who considered themselves painters, who en- 
joyed painting. 

Ms. Rothe was born in Beuthen, a town on the East 
German-Polish border. Because of World War 11 she 
attended a variety of schools, ten in all. She was 
eleven in 1 946 when her family reached West Ger- 
many. After secondary school (gymnasium) in Rheda, 
she completed her apprenticeship in jewelry making 
and studied painting, sculpture, and art history at 
the Technische Hochschule (Pforzheim). Through 
adult education courses she continued language study 
(Latin, French, Italian, Spanish). 


Yes. Since I was six or seven, I've drawn. But 
my father used my talent for everything he 
could get from it as jewelry design for customers. 
As long as I remember, I was drawing for my 
father or doing things to please him. 


When I was fourteen, I tried to imitate the 
techniques of the paintings that hung on the 
walls of my parents' home. I dipped a brush into 
salad oil. 


Yes, and nobody would tell me how to use 
them. I tried hard to contact painters, but 
everybody said painting is very difficult, don't do 
it. Even when I spoke with painters and 
sculptors, they didn't take me seriously. They 
wanted both to use me as a nude model and to 
seduce me - instead of telling me how to become 
an artist. If you can believe this, I was 21 before 
I knew there were schools where a person could 
learn how to paint. 



Many years later one art dealer even refused to 
believe she had created the mezzotint he was looking 
at. "Who is the artist?" he bellowed. "This mezzo- 
tint must come from Europe." 

"I am the artist!" she answered. 

"Then let me see your hands," he demanded. Seeing 
her toughened skin - inks embedded in the pores - he 
shook his head. Then he asked, "Woman, why do 
you work so hard?" 

What Do Schools Teach? 


Every artist is influenced first by his teacher. 
When I was twenty-one, I quit jewelry design 
and entered a painting class. I saw how 
marvelously other students could paint. They 
profited from the teacher's direction, but I 
wound up just trying to please him, which was 
against my personality. Because he didn't seem 
to value my work, I felt I didn't interest him as a 
student. I always felt inferior compared to the 
others. Therefore, I was very pleased to discover 
I did interest him as a woman. He and I mar- 
ried. (She married Professor Curd Rothe, a Ger- 
man artist who died in 1973.) I loved him, was 
excited to experience life with someone from 
whom I could get what I needed to know about 

The question was no longer, "Am I or am I not 
a painter?" as it had been with my father. It 
became, "What kind of painter-to-be am I?" And 
here my painting teacher-husband finally 
couldn't help me further. I had to follow my 
own way. 


Every school I attended hindered me, was horri- 
ble, went so against my personality. In gym- 
nasium I always felt like a dirty black sheep in 
the corner because I just couldn't do as others 
did. I'd be very afraid to teach because I know 
how hard it was to be taught and how 
dangerous it is to educate youngsters in a way 
that doesn't respect their personalities. 


Yes. In order to get a good grade, you must 
please. That was my whole childhood. I would 
call it a defensive way that becomes later an of- 
fensive. When you react against such desperate 
efforts to please, you naturally make enemies of 
people who were friends. 


Both. The Art Students League was much better 
because it costs much more money than classes 
in Germany. It's too expensive for American 
art students to sit around doing nothing, so 
most of them work terribly hard to learn. 


My work always helps me out of depression, out 
of everything. 



No. I work constantly. 


Every artist tends to think the latest painting is 
his or her best. I wouldn't say that. However, I 
feel a slow growth. I feel it has taken me these 
five years to master mezzotint technique. If I 
don't like something I've done, it's because what 
I wanted to say has not come clear enough. My 
concentration has failed. I know my best work is 
clear enough that everybody can grasp it. 


Yes. I intend a message, a visual message, 
because words are not sufficient. Or colors are 
my words. 


If they're at my level in technique or subject 
matter, of course. 


No. But that's because I don't care to meet them 
anymore. I've lived with my son here in New 
York. It's not so easy to find me, and I don't 
like discussing art with other artists. I've gotten 

sensitive about time, and working is always more 
fruitful than talking about it. 


No. I don't need anybody for my work. 
However, some of my earlier painting was en- 
couraged by Professor Max Bense, German 
philosopher and author at the University of 
Stuttgart. He saw that my direction and skill lay 
in drawing, especially human anatomy. One of 
his books contains a hundred of my pen and ink 


What's finally important is not the artist's sex or 
personality. It's the work. There should be no 
difference in quality between work done by a 
woman or by a man. Talent and intelligence 
count more. 


No. My work must be judged in relation to all 
artists, not only to women. However, men do 
dominate the art world because raising children 
still takes so much of women's (including women 

Visit in a Humanistic Garden, oil painting G.H. Rothe 


artists') time and energy. 


If a person is creative, he or she should be so in 
many ways. I find it not unusual that I paint my 
apartment, build furniture, sew dresses, or repair 


I fix things because they're broken!. . .And if 
somebody says to" me, "you can't," that makes 
me doubly determined. That's my way of learn- 
ing. You need courage to live as an artist, 
especially as a woman artist. 

In 1968 G. H. Rothe received the Villa Romana 
Prize, financing a year's work in Florence, Italy, 
where she completed huge drawings of the human 
body at the Museum of Anatomy. 

Recently she has exhibited at art fairs in 
Switzerland, Germany, and England. Her work is in 
the permanent collections of Bibliotheque Nationale, 
Paris; Museum of Dusseldorf (80 original pencil 
drawings); Bonn House of Parliament, West Ger- 
many; other museum and private collections. Over 
30 corporations have purchased her work, and she 
has designed murals for the German cities of Giessen 
and Pforzheim. 

In the U.S. Gatja Rothe' s work appears regularly in 
gallery shows and art magazines. In reviewing her 
major 1978 show at Hammer Galleries, New York, 
]ohn Faulkner called her "an artist of singular deter- 
mination and character" who has made "a unique 
contribution to the art world." 

Carole Spearin McCauley is a freelance writer, author of seven 
books, fiction and nonfiction. Her latest novel, The Honesty Tree, 
appears this year from a California publisher. She lives in Green- 
wich, Connecticut. 

Footnotes cont. from pg. 8 

«Ibid., 480. 

5 Ibid., 498-502. 

6 Ibid., 527. 

7 Ibid., 530. 

8 "Portrait of Constance Fletcher" in Geography and Plays 
(Boston: The Four Seas Company, 1922), 159. 

9 Ibid., 161. 

10 Ibid., 165. 

"Selected Writings, 509. 

Doris T. Wight lives in Bamboo, Wisconsin. She was bom in Harvey, 
Illinois, and graduated from Thornton Community College. She writes 
"I am especially delighted to be published in the area where many of my 
relatives, including my 86 year old mother (now living in Homewood) 
reside, and which will always be 'home' to me." 




Eveline Lang 

Throughout recorded history, one finds women's 
space split into two categories, each carrying 
negative valence: woman as mother/wife versus 
woman as mistress/temptress/witch. As 
mother/wife she is predicated as a passive, en- 
during, submissive servant whose main function 
is that of bearing children and caring for her 
husband. As mistress she provides sensual 
pleasure to the male. Her evil traits emerge on 
either pole: woman's role as temptress implies 
her deceitful and rapacious nature, while in her 
subordinate position as wife and mother she is 
prone to rebel against the dominance of her hus- 
band. In either case the female posits a threat to 
male supremacy and is seen as a disruptive force 
within the patriarchal order. 

Semiotics provides a scheme by which the bifur- 
cation of the feminine in the morphologies of 
different civilizations can be interpreted. This ar- 
ticle will (1) depict the diachronic shifts of sign 
systems which brought about fundamental 
transformations in the deployment of the cosmos 
and (2) discuss the functions and interrelation- 
ships of signs in the reconstructed cosmos with 
regard to the space the female occupies in it. Ad- 
ditionally, semiotics, dealing exclusively with the 
deployment of signs and their interrelations 
within different cosmologies, equally discusses 
the myths of the "Mother Goddess," the "Holy 
Woman" or the "primal androgyne" as an ar- 
rangement of signs arising within a specific 
world context. 

From mythic to rational cosmos 1 

The alignment of the feminine with the negative 
poles of the evil, the dark, the weak and the 
passive can be understood as rooted in the shift 
from an oral to a graphic tradition, or from a 
mythic to a rational cosmos within the different 
civilizations. The deconstruction of the mythical 
cosmos was a diachronic process which 
manifested itself as a new composition of the 
cosmos. What emerged with the graphic tradi- 
tion was a new synchronic system of first line 
signs, i.e., signs which deploy a world context, 
in which the rhythmic interpenetration of the 
polarities of sky and earth, light and dark was 
displaced by polar opposites. Up and down were 
reconstituted as mutually exclusive poles. Along 
with the new deployment of the first line signs 
occurred a shift of the second line signs, or those 
signs which interrelate phenomena within the 
cosmos constituted by the first line signs: good 

and evil, holy and demonic, masculine and 
feminine. Within the mystic tradition, the 
polarities were deployed as a cyclical, every- 
recurring movement. Male and female were not 
polar opposites but androgynous. In Chinese 
mythology, for example, the cosmic movement 
was described as cyclical, yang and yin being in- 
tertwined as cosmic forces. Yang and yin 
developed out of the Tao and the T'ai-chi, the 
great ridge pole, the supreme ultimate. 2 All peo- 
ple were said to be composed of both yang and 
yin as two vital inseparable components. Yang, 
the masculine, aggressive pole which inhabited 
light, spring and summer was intertwined with 
yin, the feminine, passive, dark pole which car- 
ried fall and winter. Yang and ying were 
manifested in the Great Original, the holy 
woman T'ai Yuan, an androgyne. 3 A primal an- 
drogyne is also found in the myths of the Tan- 
trie religious sect of both the Tibetan Buddhists 
and the Indian Hindus. In Tibetan Buddhism, 
the male-female polarities were called yabyum, in 
Hinduism they were Shiva and Shakti. 4 

In the rationally deployed cosmos, the polarities 
became mutually exclusive categories, surround- 
ed by impenetrable boundaries. High/low, 
light/dark, good/evil were deployed along a ver- 
tical axis which posited the higher regions as 
more perfect than the lower regions. The higher 
domain now ruled over the lower sphere. Time 
within the new cosmology was no longer cyclical 
and repetitive, but was constituted as progressing 
in linear sequence — from past to future, from 
left to right, from darkness to light, from fallen 
to saved, from irrational to rational. 5 The resul- 
tant dualistic positioning of mind over matter 
was directly associated with the male-female 
dichotomy: according to one source, "mind" and 
"man" both stem from menis, which means 
"anger" in the sense of ruling force, while matter 
stems from the root "ma," which is also the stem 
for mother. 6 Man-mind, the perfect and stable, 
rules over mother-matter, the less perfect and 
dynamic. The female remains on the level of car- 
nality, the negative pole, while the male rises 
over and above nature to occupy the positive 

With the reconstruction of the cosmos along an 
axis of opposite polarities the demonic emerges 
as a separate region outside the orderly system. 
Christian mythology offers an account which ex- 
emplifies the deployment of the nether region. 

The source of the demonic in Christian 
mythology is portrayed in Lucifer, the "fallen 
angel," who establishes a counter-order to the 
"Kingdom of God." 7 The devil sets up an equal- 


ly hierarchical anti-order to replace the nor- 
mative structure created by God. His status is 
that of a rebel who refuses to remain subservient 
to God and sets out to establish his own domain 
of power. Surrounded by his army of demons he 
resides in the lower atmosphere where he exer- 
cises his power of darkness. Satan is the adver- 
sary whose sole aim is to tempt humans to sin 
and to entice them from their faith. His evil do- 
ings on earth become manifest in man's break 
with the standards sets by God. It stands in op- 
position to the good and thus represents a threat 
to the well-established order. As the mysterium 
tremendum it forbides danger, dissolution and 
decay, and arouses fear in humans. 7 

The devil, in early Christian mythology, entered 
into the stable world from the dark nether 
regions outside to disrupt the natural order by 
bargaining for human souls. To exercise his evil 
projects, Satan appeared through various earthly 
agents by entering into them and acting through 
them. Humans and animals were described as 
equally amenable to being possessed by the 
devil. However, the female in her inherent pro- 
pensity toward evil was depicted as the most 
potential medium through which the devil acted 
out his apocalyptic schemes. 

The change from one morphological system to 
another in different civilizations is depicted in 
various myths of fall. These accounts of the 
decomposition of the cosmos establish the rela- 
tionship between the female and the evil powers 
of the nether world. 

Having been created from a bent rib of Adam's, 
Eve, according to the Jahvist version of creation 
and fall, is further removed from God than the 
male. 9 Her inferior nature makes her more prone 
to vice, less intelligent and weaker and eventual- 
ly leads her to temptation. Being tempted first, 
Eve is portrayed as the greater sinner and thus 
subject to punishment in two ways: biologically, 
in that she has to bear children, and socially, in 
that she is subject to the man. Her evil nature is 
made explicit in various Pauline epistles of the 
New Testament in which she is identified as the 
seductress of man whose evil designs are intend- 
ed to defer man from the good. This theme is 
particularly emphasized in the Proverbs and in 
Ecclesiastes 10 and further elaborated by the 
clergy in the Middle Ages: 

What is woman? Hurtful friendship; inescapable 
punishment; necessary evil; natural temptation; 
desirable calamity; domestic danger, delightful in- 
jury; born an evil, painted with good color; gate of 
the devil; road to iniquity. . . . From the begin- 
ning sin was taken from thee." 

The Jahvist account of the creation emerged as a 
central myth in the Puritan tradition of the six- 

teenth and seventeenth centuries. Milton's ver- 
sion of the Fall in Paradise Lost stresses Eve's in- 
feriority on account of her having been formed 
in the image of man, not God. Christ's answer 
to Adam who pleads for extenuation after hav- 
ing been tempted by Eve makes explicit the 
authority Adam was meant to maintain over 

. . . was shee made thy guide, 

Superior, or but equal, that to her 

Thou did'st resigne thy Manhood, and the Place 

Wherein God set thee above her made of thee, 

And for thee, whose perfection farr excell'd 

Hers in all real dignitie: Adorned 

She was indeed, and lovely to attract 

Thy Love, not thy Subjection, and her Gifts 

Were such as under Government well seem'd 

Unseemly to bear rule, which was thy part 

And person, had'st thou known thy self aright. 12 

In all of Milton's major poems-Paradise Lost. 
Samson Agonistes and Paradise Regained - one en- 
counters the woman as ruinous to the male, 
both in her position as wife and as mistress. The 
Chorus in Samson Agonistes characterizes 
woman's life: 

Is it for that such outward ornament 

Was lavish't on thir Sex, that inward gifts 

Were left for hast unfinish't, judgment scant, 

Capacity not rais'd to apprehend 

Or value what is best 

In choice, but oftest to affect the wrong? 

Or was too much of self-love mixt, 

Of constancy not root infixed, 

That either they love nothing, or not long? 

What e'er it be, to wisest men and best, 

Seeming at first all heavenly under virgin veil, 

Soft, modest, meek, demure, 

Once join'd, the contrary she proves, a thorn 

Intestine, far within defensive arms 

A cleaving mischief, in his way to vertue 

Adverse and turbulent, or by her charms 

Draws him awry, enslav'd 

With dotage, and his sense deprav'd 

To folly and shameful deeds which ruin ends. 

What Pilot so expert but needs must wreck 

Embarqu'd with such a Stears-mate at the Helm? 13 

The seductive power of the female is further 
stressed in Paradise Regained, in which Belial, one 
of Satan's followers, advises Satan to tempt 
Christ with beautiful women. The female is thus 
presumed to be inclined by nature to be at the 
service of the devil, who finds in her an instru- 
ment for leading man into sin: 

Expert in amorous Art, enchanting tongues 
Perswasive, Virgin majesty with mild 
And sweet allay 'd, yet terrible to approach, 
Skill'd to retire, and in retiring draw 
Hearts after them tangl'd in Amorous Nets. 
Such object hath the power to soft'n and tame 
Severest temper, smooth the rugged'st brow, 
Enerve, and with voluptuous hope dissolve, 


Draw out with credulous desire, and lead 

At will the manliest, resolutest brest, 

As the Magnetic hardest Iron draws: 

Women, when nothing else, beguil'd the heart 

Of wisest Solomon, and made him build, 

And made him bow to the Gods of his Wives. 14 

The myth of the Fall as told by Jahvist bears 
close resemblence to Hesiod's account of the 
myth surrounding Pandora, the first woman. 
While in earlier myths she appeared as the Great 
Goddess, the all-giving who ruled over gods and 
men, in Hesiod's version she brought evil and 
suffering onto man. Unable to tame her curiosi- 
ty she opened the jar and released swarms of 

For Zeus in anger concealed the food of man 
Because devious Prometheus had tricked him. 
Therefore he devised sorrow and trouble for men. 
He his fire. But that same good son of Iapetus 
Stole it again for men, from the Lord of Counsel, 
In a hollow fennel stalk, without the god's 

Then in anger Cloud-herding Zeus said to him, 
"Son of Iapetuc, cleverer than all other men, 
You rejoin at having purloined fire deceitfully, 
But it shall cause great sorrow to you and future 

For instead of fire I shall give them something evil 
which they shall greatly delight in, embracing their 
own ruin. 

So that Father of Men and Gods spoke and laugh- 
ed loudly. 

Then he told Hephaistus, the Master Smith, to 
mix together 

Water and earth and then to put into the mixture 
Human speech and strength in order to create 
A girl, lovely as any of the immortal goddesses. 
He told Athene to teach the creature to weave 
And embroider and he ordered the goddess 

To endow her face with charm and sensual appeal 
Which causes black corrupting passion, 
And Hermes, the Messenger and Argos-killer, 
Was told to give the thing the mind of a bitch 
And a thievish nature. So he spoke and the gods 

At once the Limping God made the image 
Of a modest girl from earth as the Son of Kronos 

Then grey-eyed Athene clothed her and gave her a 

And the goddess, Persuasion, and the Graces hung 

with golden chains and the bright-haired Hours 
crowned her with spring flowers. 
Pallas Athene bestowed many colored ornaments 
And the Messenger, Argos-killer, placed in her 

A talent for lying speech and a thievish disposi- 

He did as Zeus, the Thundered, ordered and gave 
her speech. 
Then the Herald of the Gods named the woman 

Pandora, for all the Olympians had given her gifts 
To be the ruin of men who work for a living. 
Now when this deadly, unescapable snare was 

The Father sent the swift messenger and Argos- 

To Epimetheus with the gift. But Epimetheus 
never heeded 

The advice of Prometheus never to accept a gift 
From Olympian Zeus, but to send it back 
For fear it might bring evil to mankind. 
But instead he took her and learned of the evil 

For in former times men lived upon the earth 
With minds free from evil, rough work, and pain 
Which the Fates bestow (for in evil times 
Men grow old very quickly). But the woman 
Lifted the great lid of the jar with her hands, 
She let forth gloomy afflictions to give men pain; 
Only hope remained beneath the rim of the jar 
For the lid was put back before it could escape. 
This was the will of the Lord of Counsel, 
Herder of the Clouds. But still ten thousand 
Sorrows fly about, the ruin of mankind. 
For both the earth and the sea are filled with 
evil. 15 

Pandora carries the traits that the feminine pole 
was ascribed in the newly deployed cosmos: her 
being identified as a beauty and seductress, on 
the one hand, and endowed with domestic skills 
on the other hand, reflects the dichotomous 
nature the female assumed. She is alluring yet 
unintelligent, provides sensual pleasure to the 
male world but her rightful place is in the home 
where she is supposed to be the giver and the 
caretaker of her husband. Both qualities, 
however, eventually converge in her evil inclina- 
tions: her passion corrupts, she is deceitful and 
thievish, and her gifts turn out to be the doom 
for mankind. The male is condemned to suffer- 
ing; the woman is the root of all evil. 

As indicated above, the theme remained basical- 
ly the same in the Jahvist creation myth. 
Hebrew mythology provides an alternative ac- 
count of creation and fall. According to Zohar, 
the first woman was Lilith, a primal 
androgyne. 16 She was created of one substance 
with Adam, but later God is said to have 
separated them and Lilith became Adam's first 
wife. However, she rebelled against her inferior 
position and fled. When she refused to return, 
God created Eve out of Adam's rib, thus affirm- 
ing her subordinate status. Jealous of Adam's 
new wife, Lilith became a demon who haunted 
the night and killed infants. The name Lilith is 
etymologically related to the Hebrew word for 
night and Lilith came to be called the "daughter 
of darkness," symbolic of the dark, evil side of 
the woman. One Christian tradition even iden- 
tified Lilith with the serpent who seduced Eve. 

The legend of Lilith carries another theme 


which depicts the view of the feminine: her pro- 
pensity toward jealousy and revenge against 
other women. She competes for admiration and 
attention by the male and, if denied, she elabor- 
ates wicked designs to punish her female rival. 
Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and 
Rapunzel all became victims of the revengeful 
nature of their jealous step-mothers or step- 
sisters. The woman in positions of power relative 
to other females is portrayed as carrying out 
cruel designs which are detrimental to her subor- 

Progression of thought in this direction leads to 
pronouncements of "woman as witch": 

. . . that she is more perilous than a snare does 
not speak of the snare o{ hunters, but of devils. 
For men are caught not only through their carnal 
desires, when they see and hear women: for S. 
Bernard says: Their face is a burning wind, and 
their voice the hissing of serpents. . . And when it 
is said that her heart is a net, it speaks of the in- 
scrutable malice which reigns in their hearts. . . 

To conclude: All witchcraft comes from carnal 
lust, which is in women insatiable. See Proverbs 
xxx: there are three things that are never satisfied, 
yea, a fourth thing which says that, it is enough; 
that is, the mouth of the womb. 17 

This passage appeared in the Malleus 
Maleficarum (the ':Hammer of Wickedness"), a 
document written by two inquisitors of the 
Dominican Order who were appointed by Pope 
Innocent VIII in 1484 to specify the crime of wit- 
chcraft. In the late Middle Ages, rejection of car- 
nal lust as sin and as a threat to salvation found 
expression in recourse to extreme ascetcism. 
Ascetic principles were reinforced by increasing 
dispersion of the belief in witchcraft, which was 
formally recognized by the church in 1484. It 
defined witchcraft as a confederacy with the 
devil, or entering a personal relationship with 
the devil by means of a compact. 18 In assemblies 
called the Witches' Sabbat (from French 's'ebat- 
tre,' meaning to be gay, to frolic), witches were 
said to copulate with the devil. A witch was fur- 
ther identified as either possessed by the demon, 
in which case the individual had no control over 
the evil force and was thus absorbed into the 
demonic, or the witch was obsessed in the sense 
of being accentuated. 19 The female, being viewed 
as weak and passive by nature and as tending 
toward the evil, became described as more likely 
to be besieged by the devil than the male: 

But the natural reason is that she is more carnal 
than a man, as is clear from her many carnal 
abominations. And it should be noted that there 
was a defect in the formation of the first woman, 
since she was formed from a bent rib, that is, rib 
of the breast, which is bent as it were in a con- 
trary direction to a man. And since through this 
defect she is an imperfect animal, she always 

deceives. . . And all this is indicated by the 
etymology of the word; Femina comes from Fe and 
Minus since she is ever weaker to hold and 
preserve the Faith. And this as regards faith is of 
her very nature. . . 20 

Men were held to be protected from the in- 
fluence of Satanic power because Christ had 
died "to preserve the male sex from so great a 
crime: since He was willing to be born and die 
for us, therefore He has granted men this 
privilege." 21 

Witches defied the principles of the rational 
cosmic order. They performed levitations, were 
flying through the air and had the power to 
render the masculine impotent. They were un- 
touched by the dictates of the phallocratic rule 
structure by asserting for themselves a space that 
the new cosmology firmly denied them. They 
were moving toward the irrational, the unpre- 
dictable and ever dynamic, thus violating the 
natural laws of the misogynistic cosmos. The 
portrait of the evil woman is also found in the 
caricature of the old maids. Daniel Defoe, for ex- 
ample, referred to them as "a Furious and 
Voracious kind of Females; nay, even a kind of 
Amazonian Cannibals, that not only had Sub- 
dued, but Devoured those that had the Misfor- 
tune to fall into their Hands ... If an OLD- 
MAID should bite any body, it would certainly 
be as Mortal, as the Bite of a Mad-Dog." 22 

Fear of women and hostility toward them arches 
over into the twentieth century literature. 
Faulkner characterizes the female as mindless 
and heartless, yet all-powerful. The male cannot 
resist being sexually involved with her despite 
the fact that she is dangerous. Even if he attacks 
her first, she will emerge as the triumphant force 
because of her invulnerability and her insensitive 
carnal instinct. The traditional female is describ- 
ed as subhuman and deficient, while the eman- 
cipated woman is viewed as corrupt and 
dangerous. 23 

To ward off the manifestations of evil from the 
orderly universe, the phallocratic system dictated 
measures which were inherent in the 
dichotomous deployment of the cosmos. The 
body as the vessel for evil spirits, primarily the 
female body which signified carnality, had to be 
subjected to torture if the demon was to be exor- 
cised. Corporeal punishment in the form of an- 
nihilation of the possessed corpus was exercised 
through the burning of witches. 

In China, the practice of footbinding was a 
means of constraining woman's space and cor- 
poreal engagement to the extent that she was 
virtually immobilized. 24 Mind/mem's as the 
righteous ruler over matter was justified in preser- 
ving the cosmic order by any means possible. 


The destruction of the evil woman is a theme 
that can be found throughout ancient 
mythologies. Vishnu beheads the mother of the 
guru of the demons, the evil mother in 
Mahayana Buddhism; the Reg- Veda depicts In- 
dra as having done a heroic deed by slaying 
Dawn, the woman who intended to do evil. 25 
The figures of Urvasi, Saranyu and Yami in the 
Reg- Veda, whose common origin is a goddess of 
earlier Indo-European myths, are never worship- 
ped. They are dangerous, immoral and cruel and 
pose a haunting threat to the man. 26 Only 
through their death can order be established. 

A less cruel but nevertheless effective way of 
"putting the female in the right place" is shown 
in the shrew-taming plays of the Middle Ages 
and those written at the end of the sixteenth 
century. The plot evolves the character of a 
disobedient wife who, after having been justly 
reprimanded by the male, submits resentfully to 
his commands: 

Then to His image did He make a man. 
Old Adam, and from his side asleep 
A rib was taken, of which the Lord did make 
The woe of man, so termed by Adam them 
"Wo-man," for that by her came sin to us; 
And for her sin was Adam doomed to die. 
Obey them, love them, keep, and nourish them, 
If they by any means do want our helps; 
Laying our hands under their feet to tread, 
If that by that we might procure their ease; 
And for a precedent I'll first begin 
And lay my hand under my husband's feet. 27 

The woman who adopts masculine ideals, 
however, will become sexually uncontrollable in 
her temper and turn to destruction of the male: 

The very women who are most busy saving the 
bodies of men, and saving the children: these 
women-doctors, these nurses, these educationalists, 
these public-spirited women, these female saviours: 
they are all, from the inside, sending out waves of 
destructive malevolence which eat out the inner 
life of a man, like a cancer. It is so, it will be so, 
till we men realize it and react to save 
themselves. 28 

Such was D.H. Lawrence's reaction to the new 
emergence of the emancipation movement in the 
twentieth century. Women moving toward the 
masculine pole, demanding equal recognition 
and access to the active domain, were rejected 
on the basis of the negative valence their nature 

Twentieth century psychology, finally, evolved 
theories which incorporated the polar 
cosmological scheme that had been constructed 
with the onset of the graphic tradition. Jung, in 
his studies of primitive peoples, for example, 
depicts his "archetypes" in the following ways: 
the male psyche is characterized by authority, 

logic and order, as that which is saturnian and 
embodies the consonant values of patriarchy. 
The female psyche, on the other hand, is emo- 
tional, receptive, anarchic and cancerian. While 
conceding that the male psyche has a female 
component and vice versa, Jung nevertheless in- 
sists that women are ruled by the subconscious, 
men are ruled by the conscious, or mind. 29 

The prejudgment of woman's inferiority is equal- 
ly present in Freud's theoretical schemes. Freud 
identifies woman almost as a purely sexual be- 
ing, equates femininity with sexuality and "pro- 
ves" the female's inherent proneness to neurosis. 
In Civilization and Its Discontents he explicitly 
states his view of women as retarding the 
development of civilization: 

. . . Women soon come into opposition to civiliza- 
tion and display retarding and restraining in- 
fluence. . . Women represent the interests of the 
family and of sexual life. The work of civilization 
has become increasingly the business of men, it 
confronts them with ever more difficult tasks and 
compels them to carry out instinctual sublimations 
of which women are little capable. 30 

The prejudgments upon which these theories 
were built are not random selections, however. 
Rather, they are engrained in the scientific 
enterprise per se, as science is a direct manifesta- 
tion of the myth of rational cosmos. 31 Science is 
established through the deployment of second 
level signs based on the rational cosmological 
context. "Science. . . is an extension of the man- 
mind rule, as the 'higher' principle to be achiev- 
ed through 'historical progress,' and in the 
future. Science is a dramatization of the conser- 
vative movement toward rigidity and maximum 
'rule.'" 32 

Historical accounts throughout the ages also 
display their portraits of the good women. The 
woman achieves virtue by abandoning her sex- 
uality, her purification comes through the 
erasure of her feminine traits. 

Worship of Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother, 
arose as a central theme in the church from the 
beginning of the twelfth century on. The virgin 
became the symbol of redemption from Eve's sin 
and mediator between man and God. She was 
idealized as pure in spirit and body, enabling 
man to gain salvation. 33 The Madonna 
represents an ideal that the "daughters of Eve: 
can never achieve. Her immaculate conception 
(her own freedom from original sin), and the 
preservation of her virginity after having born 
the Son of God, make her cease to be a woman. 

Along with the worship of the innocent virgin 
emerged the idealization of the repentant 
woman, as exemplified in the image of 
Magdalen. 34 She is carved out as the kneeling 
woman, weeping and begging for forgiveness. 


She is the one who acknowledges male 
supremacy and seeks absolution from her evil 
through deepest submission to the Savior. 
Realizing the immensity of the sin she commit- 
ted by disobeying the Father, she knows that 
she can only be redeemed by accepting pain and 
suffering. She recognizes that her salvation can 
only come through the male. 

The virtuous woman is again found in the fairy 
tales mentioned earlier-- Sleeping Beauty, 
Cinderella, Rapunzel and Snow White are vic- 
tims at core. Their total inertia makes them 
ultimately helpless in the face of the wickedness 
of their female rivals. The acceptance of martyr- 
dom, however, does not remain unrewarded: the 
prince takes her under his protection, shields her 
from danger and wants nothing but to preserve 
her purity by guarding her beauty and in- 
nocence as inexhaustible treasures for mankind. 
She is good as long as she is mute, passive and 
stationary. Her ultimate containment thus oc- 
curs with her death— her purity is rendered eter- 
nal. As Andrea Dworkin remarks: 

When she is good, she is soon dead. In fact, when 
she is good, she is so passive in life that death 
must be only more of the same. . . the only good 
woman is a dead woman. When she is bad she 
lives, or when she lives she is bad. She has one 
real function, motherhood. In that function, 
because it is active, she is characterized by over- 
whelming malice, devouring greed, uncontainable 
avarice. She is ruthless, brutal, ambitious, a danger 
to children and other living things. Whether called 
mother, queen, stepmother, or wicked witch, she is 
the wicked witch, the content of nightmare, the 
source of terror. 35 

The same context, Mary Daly observes: 

Patriarchal society revolves around myths of Pro- 
cessions. Earthly processions both generate and 
reflect the image of processing from and return to 
God the Father. According to Christian theology, 
there are processions within the godhead, which is 
triune. The Son, who is the second person, is said 
to proceed from the Father, and the Holy Ghost is 
said to proceed from the Father and the Son. 
Moreover, all creatures proceed from this eternally 
processing God, who is their Last End, with whom 
the righteous will be united in eternal bliss. . . . 
(The) ultimate symbol of processions is the all-male 
Trinity itself. 36 

The procession, whether it occurs in religion or 
in science, revolved around the masculine pole, 
which is rational/enh'ghtened/ever progressing. 
As the all-male trinity infinitely moves within 
itself, so does the "scientific enterprise." The 
scientist observes, hypothesizes, theorizes, tests, 
concludes, observes, hypothesizes, ... ad in- 
finitum. Progress in science has nothing but pro- 
gress as its aim, and progress in the rationally 
deployed cosmos is movement from left to right, 

from darkness to light, from irrational to ra- 
tional. The feminine is excluded from this pro- 
cession. Science deals with "secondary qualities," 
it reduced the life world to measurable, quan- 
tifiable objects which the mind can "objectively" 
observe. Everything that is dynamic and am- 
biguous is ruled out of its domain because it is 
located on the opposite negative pole. The 
feminine as the irrational is disqualified from 
participating in the search and widening/ expan- 
ding it to include the ambiguity and dynamism 
of phenomena. Science thus involves power posi- 
tioning. It discards the feminine/dynamic/am- 
biguous as irrational and assumes the power to 
rule over matter, manipulate and control it. Pro- 
gress in science, which aims at exerting ever 
more control over its objects of investigation, 
can thus be seen as further and further invasion 
of feminine space and claiming absolute rule 
over it. Mary Daly again finds that: 

This mythic paradigm of the Trinity is the product 
of Christian culture, but it is expressive of all 
patriarchal patterning of society. Indeed, it is the 
most refined, explicit, and loaded expression of 
such patterning. Human males are eternally put- 
ting on the masks and playing the roles of the 
Divine Persons. The mundane processions of sons 
have as their basic but unacknowledged and unat- 
tainable aim an attempted 'consubstantiality' with 
the father (the cosmic father, the oedipal father, 
the professional godfather). . . .Patriarchy is itself 
the prevailing religion of the entire planet, and its 
essential message is necrophilia. . . And the sym- 
bolic message of all the sects of the religion which 
is patriarchy is this: Women are dreaded anomie. 37 

To summarize, then, this essay assesses the 
designation of the feminine as evil or demonic, 
which is given in mythologies across civilizations 
throughout history, through semiological 
analysis of symbolic configurations. A study of 
the shift from a mythical to a rational cosmos, 
that is from an oral to a graphic tradition, 
reveals the deconstruction of a cosmos deployed 
as a rhythmical interpenetration of polar regions 
and the reconstruction of a cosmos of opposite 
polarities. Cosmic time as non-directed, cyclical 
movement is displayed by time as unidirectional 
horizontal movement. With the new deployment 
of first line signs emerges a reconstitution of se- 
cond line signs along a vertical axis and a 
hierarchical arrangement of functions. Male and 
female in the rational cosmos are no longer con- 
stituted as androgynous but as polar opposites, 
man occupying the rational space, woman the ir- 

The development of the notion of the demonic 
is illustrated in the discussion of various myths 
of all, which also revealed the relationship bet- 
ween the feminine and the demonic depicted in 
the mythological accounts. 


The study further points out the dichotomiza- 
tion of women's space — wife/mistress, lily/rose, 
mother/witch, etc. — which was perpetuated 
throughout history. The theme of the feminine 
as evil is discussed through a portrayal of literary 
accounts and social practices and is contrasted 
with the image of the ideal woman as described 
in myths. Finally, science is identified as a do- 
main which excludes feminine/irrational space as 
it processes within the masculine/rational 
region. The feminine as evil thus is revealed as 
inherent in a world context in which the cosmos 
is deployed in opposite polarities that are arrang- 
ed into phallic axial significations. 


'Algis Mickunas, ':World Contexts." Paper presented at the Speech Com- 
munication Association Conference, Chicago, 111., 1984. 

2 Andrea Dworkin, Woman Hating. New York: E.P. Dutton &. Co., Inc., 
1974, p. 165. 

3 Dworkin, Ibid., p. 167. 

4 Dworkin, Ibid., p. 167. 

5 Mickunas, Ibid., p. 10. 

'Mickunas, Ibid., p. 11. 

'Mickunas, "The Demonic." Originally published in Metmenys, 45, 1983, pp. 
80-105, "Demoniskos Akivaizdos." See also, Edward Langdon, Satan, a Por- 
trait: A Study of the Character of Satan Through All the Ages. London: Skeff- 
ington &. Sons, 1945. 

8 James W. Boyd, Satan and Mara: Christian and Buddhist Symbols of Evil. 
Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1975, p. 173. 

'Boyd, Ibid., p. 150. 

,0 H.R. Hays, The Dangerous Sex: The Myth of Female Evil. New York: G.P. 
Putnam's Sons, 1964, Ch. 8. 

"Katharine Rogers, The Troublesom Helpmate: A History of Misogyny in 
Literature. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1966, In- 

"Rogers, Ibid., p. 


"Rogers, Ibid., p. 


14 Rogers, Ibid., p. 


''Rogers, Ibid., p. 


"Ways, Ibid., Ch. 


"Maximilian Rudwin, The Devil in Legend and Literature. New York: AMS 
Press, 1983, Ch. IX. 

18 Dworkin, Ibid., p. 133: see also; Shulamith Shahar, The Forth Estate: A 
History of Women in the Middle Ages. London &. New York: Metheun, 1983, 
Ch. 8. 

"Langdon, Ibid., p. 76ff. 

"Robbins, The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology. New York: Crown 
Publishers, 1959, p. 392. 

"Dworkin, Ibid., p. 132. 

"Dworkin, Ibid., p. 130. 

"Rogers, Ibid., Ch. 3; Hays, Ibid., Ch. 16, 17. 

"Rogers, Ibid., p. 202. 

"Rogers, Ibid., pp. 252-258. 

26 Mary Daly, Gyn/Ecoiogy. The Metaethics of Radical Feminism. Boston: 
Beacon Press, 1978, Ch. 4. See also: Dworkin, Ibid., Ch. 6. 

"Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty, Women, Androgynes, and Other Mythical Beasts. 
Chicago &. London: The University of Chicago Press, 1980, p. 71; p. 79. 

"O'Flaherty, Ibid., p. 79. 

"Rogers, Ibid., pp. 91-92. 

"Rogers, Ibid., p. 246. 

"Dworkin, Ibid., p. 159. 

"Rogers, Ibid., p. 236. 

"Mickunas, "World Contexts," p. 13. 

J4 Mickunas, Ibid., p. 13. 

"Denis de Rougemont, Love in the Western World. Trans, by Montgomery 
Belgion, New York: Random House/Pantheon, 1940, pp. 294-296. See also: 
Rudwin, Ibid., pp. 178-179. Also: Daly, Ibid., pp. 83-88. Ian Maclean, The 
Renaissance Notion of Woman. Cambridge: Cambridge University. 

"Rogers, Ibid., Ch. 6. 

"Dworkin, Ibid., p. 41. 

"Daly, Ibid., p. 37. 

"Daly, Ibid., pp. 38-39. 


Boyd, James W. Satan and Mara: Christian and Buddhist Symbols of Evil. 
Leiden: EJ. Brill, 1975. 

Daly, Mary. Gyn/Ecology. The Metaethics of Radical Feminism. Boston: Beacon 
Press, 1978. 

Dworkin, Andrea. Woman Hating. New York: E.P. Dutton &. Co., Inc., 

Hays, H.R. The Dangerous Sex: The Myth of the Feminine Evil. New York: 
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1964. 

Langdon, Edward. Satan, a Portrait: A Study of the Character of Satan Through 
All the Ages. London: Skeffington &. Sons, 1945. 

Maclean, Ian. the Renaissance Notion of Woman. Cambridge: Cambridge 
University Press, 1980. 

Mickunas, Algis. "The Demonic." Originally published as "Demoniskos 
Akivaizdos" in Metmenys, 45, 1983, 80-105. 

"World Contexts." Papet presented at the Southern Speech Com- 

munication Association Conference, Chicago, Illinois, 1984. 

O'Flaherty, Wendy, Doniger. Women, Androgynes, and Other Mythical Beasts. 
London: The University of Chicago Press, 1980. 

Robbins, Russell Hope. The Encyclopedia of 

Witchcraft and Demonology. New York: Crown Publishers, 1959. 

Rogers, Katharine. The Troublesom Helpmate: A History of Mysogyny m 
Literature. Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1966. 

Rougemont, Denis de. Lone in the Western World. Trans. Belgion, Mon- 
tgomery, New Yotk: Random House/Pantheon, 1940/1956. 

Rudwin, Maximilian. The Devil in Legend and Literature. New York: AMS 
Press, 1931. 

Shahar, Shulamith. The Forth Estate: A History of Women in the Middle Ages. 
London and New York: Methuen, 1983. 

Eveline Lang is a Ph.D. student in interpersonal communication at Ohu 
University in Athens. 




Joanne Zimmerman 

After a long illness, Matt Vidich died, and then 
the family admitted to their responsibility for his 
crochety widow. 

After the funeral, Cousin Laura put her arm 
through the old lady's and said, "Why don't you 
come home with me for a few days?" and was 
visibly relieved when Mrs. Vidich refused. She 

was exhausted with all the hullabaloo of illness, 
hospital, funeral, and wanted only to return 
silently to her small quiet house. 

Cousin Lottie shook her grey head and said, 
"You oughtn't be alone, dear. Now if I had 
room. . ." 

Buster Vidich roused himself and said, "I'll come 
home with you, Mama. I'll stay with you for a 

"No need. No need at all," Mrs. Vidich said 


furiously. "I don't mind being alone. I was alone 
all the time he was in the hospital, wasn't I?" 
she accused them all. "I've got the Finleys next 
door, and the Pagodas through the back." The 
last person she wanted around was her lumber- 
ing clumsy son. She said to him, "Your place is 
with Marge. I don't want you to leave Marge," 
playing his own game— noble, self-sacrificing- 
expecting Marge to be her ally. 

But Marge just waved her hand. "Oh, no. It's 
quite all right, Mother Vidich. I can spare him 
for a few days." 

The corners of Mrs. Vidich's mouth pulled 
down, her watery blue eyes moved angrily from 
one to the other. No one took her side. The 
family attributed her expression to grief. She was 
thinking nastily, "Probably doesn't want him 
around any more than I do. She sure don't need 
him. You bet she don't need him. Married twen- 
ty years and not chick nor child. Probably never 
even had a party." Then she felt better, as 
though she had gotten even with Marge and 

Everyone was looking at her with such ap- 
prehension and tenderness that she wasn't sure 
she hadn't said the last of this aloud. She wor- 
ried that Marge would be mad at her, so she ac- 
quiesced gruffly. "Well, then," she said to Buster, 
settling her hat straight on her head. "Let's get 
going. What are we standing around here for?" 
It pleased her to see them exchange glances that 
said, "See? She's all right after all. She's a 
spunky old gal after all," with relief that they 
would not have to look out for her, difficult as 
she was. 

When she got home she opened all the windows, 
went in to the kitchen to fix a bite to eat before 
everyone came. She noticed that her house 
plants were drooping, the coleus, violets, 
begonias, the ivy leaves curled back on 
themselves, ferns dry as dust. She had forgotten 
about them in the excitement of the last few 
days. Now she thought they looked appropriate, 
drooping, heads down, humbled, they looked 
sad. They looked the way she ought to, and she 
approved of them. She gave them each just 
enough water to keep them alive, but not 
enough to restore them to vigor. 

She put the kettle on for tea and cut a thick 
slice of bread for herself. Later everyone would 
descend on her, bringing plenty of food. She was 
hungry now and would eat, and then eat less 
later. It would not be seemly to have an appetite 
the day of the funeral. She did not ask Buster if 
he wanted anything. "Let him wait. He'll get 
plenty later." Buster always wanted something. 
There was no need to ask. If he wanted 
something, he could get it for himself. It was his 

idea to stay with her. She wasn't going to wait 
on him. She would sit down, eat, and drink her 
tea. Perhaps she could finish before it occurred 
to Buster that he was hungry, and she would 
not have to sit across the table from him and 
watch him eat. Buster shoveled quantities of 
food into his big mouth, chewed noisily with his 
blubbery lips parted, and swallowed audibly. As 
many times as she had told him. She guessed 
she had told him every meal every day all the 
years he was growing up, and it never did any 
good. Sometimes, right after she scolded him, he 
would sit up straight, bring the food up to his 
mouth, and try to chew with his lips closed, but 
after a few minutes he would be hunched over 
his plate again, shoveling in whatever was before 
him, everything mixed up together. She got tired 
of telling him. She had put up with him for a 
long time. He didn't marry Marge until he was 

Mrs. Vidich was tired of having Buster around 
long before he had finished cleaning out Mr. 
Vidich's belongings. It worried her that there 
didn't seem any hurry for him to get back to his 
job. It annoyed her that he did not hanker to 
return to Marge. She didn't want Marge to get 
away, not with that good job, and all the money 
she was making. If he was so nonchalant about 
Marge, and Marge left him, he might think he 
ought to come home to live, and she didn't 
want that, not at all. 

Buster interfered with her day and night. 
Everything she wanted to do, he had something 
to say. "Now, Ma, don't you think that's too 
much? Don't you think that's too tiring?" And 
would try to do it himself, whatever it was, set- 
ting the table, washing dishes even, and never 
did it her way, the way she wanted, was used to 
doing things. 

She was used to having Mr. Vidich go to bed 
early every night. He always fell sound asleep. 
This gave her the evening free to watch the 
goings-on at her next-door neighbors, the 
Finleys. From her diningroom window she could 
clearly see into their downstairs bedroom, and 
partly into the livingroom and hall. She would 
pull a chair to the window in her darkened 
house and watch the Finley children play and 
fight. Six children, going on seven, if she wasn't 
wrong about Mrs. Finley the last time she saw 
her prepare for bed. She would watch the lights 
go out in their livingroom, and one by one in 
the upstairs bedrooms where the children slept, 
watch Mr. Finley undress, and then Mrs. Finley, 
watch them fool around with each other or 
argue. In the summer time, with all the windows 
open, she could even hear what they were say- 
ing. It was better than television because during 
the day, in the yard, at the grocery store, they 


were polite but stand-offish, poor people trying 
to put on a front for the neighbors, while all the 
time she knew them as well as they knew each 
other, having watched them scratch and tease 
and love each other. She could hardly wait to 
get back to it. 

Buster didn't want to go to bed until she did, sat 
in the livingroom watching television and yawn- 
ing. She tried going to bed early, in hopes he 
would, too, and he did. She waited until she 
heard him snore, and then got up carefully, slip- 
ped into the diningroom, lifted a chair over to 
the window. The legs of the chair tapped on the 
floor when she set it down, and the chair 
squeaked a little when she sat in it— hardly a 
noise at all, but enough to wake Buster. There 
he stood in his rumpled pajamas, hair on end, 
saying stupidly, "What? What's the matter?" 

She was furious with him. "Nothing. Nothing at 
all. I just couldn't fall asleep," she lied. 

"Aw, come on, Ma. Don't sit around and 
brood. That don't accomplish a thing." He 
bumbled around, turning on lights. "I'll make 
you some tea, or something. Hot milk. Would 
you like hot milk?" 

"Get out of here!" she shrilled, scurrying after 
him, pushing him aside, to turn the lights off 
again. "Nothing I want, but you should get out 
of here and leave me alone." 

"Well," he stood with his big hands hanging 
down at his sides, looking bewildered. "You 
don't have to get so mad." And slouched off to 
bed again. 

Mrs. Vidich felt contrite. After all, Buster was 
trying to be nice. It wasn't his fault if he didn't 
do anything right. He had had his father's exam- 
ple all those years. What could you expect? 

She was busy in the kitchen before Buster woke 
next morning, making biscuits, frying sausages 
and eggs — his favorite breakfast— by way of 

"I wouldn't stay, Ma," he said with his mouth 
full. "A dozen times I've been ready to go, but I 
worry. Everything's done. Pa's things are out of 
the way. The yard is in good shape. You can 
have the Finley boy cut the grass, and I'll come 
around often. You can take care of yourself, I 
know that, I see that. But I worry about the 
nights. What if you get sick in the night, and no 
one here to take care of you right away?" 

"I could call you. I could call the Finleys." 

"But what if you couldn't? What if you couldn't 
even get to the telephone? I hate to leave and 
have you alone here at night." 

He could see by her frown that he had touched 
on something that worried her, too. She had 

read of people who died and mouldered for 
weeks before anyone thought to break the door 
down and get to them. Stinking mess that would 
be! She didn't want that to happen in her 
house. She had no fear of violence or sickness or 
death — only of remaining undiscovered. "I 
thought of getting someone to stay with me 

"Well, who?" She shook her head, and they 
both sat without speaking for several moments. 
Suddenly Buster had an idea, pushed his chair 
back from the table as though he would put it 
into action immediately. "What about that 
oldest Finley boy? The one who cuts the grass? I 
bet he'd love to have his own room. He could 
have my room, and I'd. . ." 

Mrs. Vidich shook her head strenuously. "No, 
Not him. Wouldn't have him around." Buster 
looked crestfallen. She didn't tell Buster, but she 
had decided not to have that boy cut the grass 
any more either. She hated him, hated the way 
he was growing up. Fifteen now, black fuzz 
discoloring his upper lip. When he worked, he 
hung his shirt on a low branch and swaggered 
around her yard in his tight black pants, sweat 
running down his hairless chest. She hated the 
way he looked, the way he looked at her. She 
was old, she didn't want to have to think about 
things like that any more. She hated the way he 
looked around her yard, her house, as though it 
belonged to him, and he wasn't just cutting the 
grass at a dollar an hour. She hated the way he 
looked around at the tools and things in the 
garage when he put the mower away. Still she 
would not let Mr. Vidich keep the garage lock- 
ed, reasoning that, if they were locked out of the 
house by accident and it rained or snowed, they 
could take shelter in the garage until help came. 
"But I'll lock the garage now," she said to 


"I'll lock the garage and hide a key to the house 
some place. Under the doormat maybe. I'll tell 
you where when I make up my mind." 

Buster got up from the table. To show his 
gratitude for the good breakfast, he cleared the 
dishes from his place at the table. His little 
mother got to her feet and took them from him 
before he could put them in the sink. Left 
without this chore, he looked around for 
something else to do, noticed the plants on the 
ledge of the kitchen window, sickly, drooping, 
dusty. He looked closer and saw that the soil 
was brick-hard. Before she knew what he was up 
to, he filled a milk bottle with water, and filled 
each clay pot brimfull. His mother descended on 
him, reached to grab the bottle from him, and 
only knocked it from his hand. It rebounded 


from the cabinet top and shattered on the floor. 

"Oh, you stupid. . .! You. . .can't you do 
anything right?" 

"Ma!" he pleaded. "The plants were dying. I 
thought you had forgotten to water them, and 
so I was only. . ." 

"If I had wanted them to be watered, I would 
have done it. I don't need you to tell me what 
needs doing and what doesn't. Nice mess you've 

"Well, here. Take it easy. I'll get the broom." 

"You get out. That's all I want you to do. Just 
get out." He turned, opened the back door and 
took a step, but she screamed at him, "Come 
back here! Get your suitcase and everything else. 
I mean get out! Go home now! I've had 

"Well, that goes for both of us." He strode 
through the water and glass on the floor without 

The plants straightened up, thanks to Buster's 
hasty attention, but after that Mrs. Vidich let 
them dry up and die, just to show him. 

When Mrs. Finley came to call after the funeral, 
she brought her twelve-year-old daughter Mariet- 
ta with her, a pale stick of a girl with straight 
shoulder length hair and a small pretty face. 
Mrs. Vidich had observed Marietta evenings sit- 
ting quietly on the couch reading, while the 
others wrestled and scrambled around, and it oc- 
curred to her that this girl might like to leave 
that madhouse of a family and stay quietly with 
her at night. She thought a proposition like this 
should be made officially, formally, not in the 
back yard over the hedge, so she washed up, put 
on her corset and stockings, dressed carefully, 
wearing rouge and lipstick, went down the walk 
from her door to the sidewalk, and up their 
walk to their front door like any stranger. When 
she was ushered into their shabby livingroom it 
was like coming on stage for a scene she had 
watched from the wings many times. Mrs. Finley 
came to the door smoothing her dress, patting 
her hair into place, picking up toys, newspapers, 
shoes. Mrs. Vidich made her proposal, Mrs. 
Finley called Marietta and repeated it to her. 
"Well, what do you think?" she asked heartily, 
not knowing what to think herself. 

Marietta glanced from one to the other and 
then looked down. "I wouldn't mind," she said 

She came into Mrs. Vidich's house that evening 
with her cotton pajamas under her arm. "And 
your clothes for tomorrow?" 

"I'll go home. I'll wear these." 

"Do you want to take a bath?" Mrs. Vidich 

would like to have required a bath and a sham- 
poo before the child got into her bed, but didn't 
feel she could the first thing. That night, after 
Marietta was asleep, Mrs. Vidich watched the 
Finleys. The girl wasn't missed in the rumpus in 
the livingroom, but it was obvious that Mr. and 
Mrs. Finley were having some sort of discussion. 
He was waving his arms, smacking his fist into 
his palm. It was exciting to think that they 
might be talking about her. 

The arrangement worked nicely. In a few days 
Mrs. Vidich had persuaded Marietta to bring 
some clothes over and put them in the empty 
dresser drawers that had once held Buster's 
clothing. Mrs. Vidich inspected them when 
Marietta was gone during the day. Washed out, 
spiritless clothing, missing buttons and ties, 
seams open, hems down. "Now I'm going to 
show you how to sew. How to sew on buttons, 
how to put a hem in." Mrs. Vidich would not 
let the sulky child leave in the morning until all 
was in order in her dress. She gave her breakfast 
first. She gave her breakfast every morning, and 
a snack of cookies and milk or cocoa every night 
before bed. It seemed to her that the girl looked 
healthier, was filling out. Then she realized that 
that might be expected at Marietta's age. 

Over a cup of cocoa with a marshmallow, Mrs. 
Vidich asked, "You haven't grown up yet, have 
you?" Marietta looked puzzled and did not 
answer, and Mrs. Vidich explained, "You 
haven't come due, have you?" 

Marietta shook her head, looking down at the 
cup of cocoa she was stirring. Mrs. Vidich con- 
tinued, "Because I don't want any of that mess 
in my bed. I got a good mattress — cost Mr. 
Vidich ninety-five dollars, may he rest in 
peace — and good sheets, and I don't want any of 
that." She nodded vehemently. "And no boy 
friends. You just stay with me, and read your 
books, and never mind about boys. They just 
want one thing anyhow. Don't you take 
anything from any boys. Don't take any of them 
pills either. Just don't take anything from any 
boys and you'll be all right." 
Other evenings they talked about other things. 
Marietta recounted in exact detail movies she 
had seen, books she had read. Mrs. Vidich told 
Marietta all about how it was to be a girl when 
she was young, and described the members of 
her family, the school she had gone to, the men 
she might have married instead of Mr. Vidich. 

In an old suitcase on a shelf in her closet Mrs. 
Vidich found several cotton housedresses that 
were good as new, but that had gotten too tight 
on her some years back. She had them waiting 
for Marietta that evening. "Good as new. Your 
mother can make them over for you. See? Just 


take them up at the waist, turn up the hem." 
She held one up against the gir's body. 

Marietta said coolly, "I'll take them home, but 
my mother will probably give them to the Salva- 
tion Army." 

At first Mrs. Vidich was angry. "Salvation 
Army! Indeed!" The Finleys were poor, anybody 
could see that. You didn't have to peek in win- 
dows to see that. They could make good use of 
these clothes if they weren't so proud. What 
right did they have to be so proud? Then she 
thought, "Well, how do I know what Mrs. 
Finley would say? I'm sure she'd be grateful. It's 
only this child that is so proud. Probably dying 
for something new and thinks she won't get it if 
she has these things." After a while she thought, 
"I could buy her something new. Maybe I will." 
It occurred to her that perhaps Marietta had 
outsmarted her, was gambling all along on the 
probability that Mrs. Vidich would buy her 
something new. "No. She couldn't think so. 
Why would I? I'll show her! I will!" 

"Marietta," Mrs. Vidich said, "you've been a 
good girl, haven't you?" Marietta nodded 
suspiciously. "And you're going to be a good 
girl." There was a pause, then Mrs. Vidich said, 
"Tomorrow morning after breakfast we'll go up 
in town and buy something. We'll buy 
something for you. Something new. Something 
you really want. How will that be?" 

Marietta looked at Mrs. Vidich in honest 
disbelief. When the old woman kept nodding 
and repeating "Something new. Something you 
pick out for yourself. Something you really 
want," she jumped up from the kitchen table, 
ran around and hugged Mrs. Vidich, and then 
ran from the room to her bedroom and slammed 
the door. Mrs. Vidich was touched, but she 
couldn't help thinking, "Shouldn't have slam- 
med the bedroom door. Not polite." 

After breakfast next morning they walked into 
town, Marietta pacing herself to the old 
woman's slow steps. She would not hold her 
hand. Mrs. Vidich decided to take her to 
Helen's Shoppe where she knew values were 
good and prices low since she had bought things 
for herself there many times. On the way they 
passed Bimrose Kolonial Furniture store, and 
suddenly Marietta slipped from Mrs. Vidich's 
side and darted to the big window. "There!" she 
pointed breathlessly. "That's what I want!" 

Mrs. Vidich walked across the sidewalk slowly 
to see. "What?" She peered incredulously at the 
display, back at Marietta. There was no doubt 
that the girl was pointing to a small pink lamp, 
a fake kerosene lamp, a bulbous shiny bottom 
with a black wire coiled out from it, and a 
translucent pink chimney. The switch was an or- 

nate gold key projecting from the joint of 
chimney and base. The whole thing was no 
more than eight inches high. 

"That's what I want." Marietta started eagerly 
for the door of the store. 

Mrs. Vidich did not follow. "That! But I didn't 
mean anything like that!" Marietta returned 
slowly to her, her face pulled together rigidly, 
smaller than ever. Mrs. Vidich continued calm- 
ly, "I mean, something practical. Something to 
wear. We'll go to Helen's. . ." 

"But you said, something I would pick out. 
Something I want." 

"But something practical. Not like that." She 
gestured toward the lamp. "That's the kind of 
thing for a birthday, or Christmas, if you have 
been a very good girl." She started off again. 
"We'll have to see about that." Marietta stood 
for a moment, then followed slowly, a few steps 

Mrs. Vidich told the saleswoman in Helen's 
what they were looking for, and the woman 
pulled out a handful of cotton dresses. Mrs. 
Vidich looked them over, fingered the fabrics, 
compared the price tags. She held up one— stur- 
dy blue checked material, wouldn't show soil 
easily, chaste high neckline and long sleeves — ex- 
tended it toward Marietta. "Well, here we are. 
Try it on. Try this one on first." 

Marietta stood looking at the carpeting, her hair 
partly covering her face. She shook her head. 
"I'm not going to try on that one. I'm not going 
to try on any. I'm going to go home." 

Mrs. Vidich stepped toward her menacingly, but 
the girl did not move. "We didn't come up here 
for nothing. I know what you're thinking about. 
You can't make me buy that lamp for you by 
acting this way. If you act like this, what makes 
you think I'll buy anything— that lamp or this 
dress or anything — for you? Now or any time?" 

"My mother won't let me. She won't let me take 
presents from anybody." 

Mrs. Vidich expelled breath in a loud "Shaw!" 
She smiled grimly. "I know your mother. I'll talk 
to her about it, and we'll see what she says. She 
didn't say anything of the kind. It's just your 
own stubbornness." She felt that she was talking 
too loud and strong, that the saleswoman and 
other customers might find this a strange scene. 
She looked around to see if anyone was 
watching, allowed a softer smile to relax her face 
and said philosophically, "Life isn't like that. 
You listen to me. You're not going to get 
everything in this world just because you ask for 
it. You'll end up with nothing at all." She 
thought she detected a slight relenting in Mariet- 
ta's posture, shook the dress at her and said, 


"Try it on. Just try it on. You don't have to 
take it if you don't want it. Lord knows I'm not 
going to spend my money that way. Try and 
talk you into something you don't want. I just 
thought this dress would look so sweet on you." 
She handed it over to Marietta and sat down to 

Marietta tried on several dresses, found herself 
enjoying it, looking pretty in the mirror, posing 
this way and that. She liked the feel of the 
materials, their new smell. There were dresses 
she liked better than the blue, but she knew 
that was Mrs. Vidich's selection, and decided to 
please the old woman by choosing it. Mrs. 
Vidich seemed not to notice that it was a little 
long, but Marietta knew she could turn the hem 
up herself, now that she had learned how. 

After Mrs. Vidich had slowly fished out 
crumpled bills and counted the change twice, 
and the cashier was wrapping the package, the 
old woman turned to Marietta and asked, "And 
what do you say?" 

"Thank you, Mrs. Vidich. Thank you very 

"That's right," Mrs. Vidich nodded happily. 
"And a little kiss, too, don't you think?" She 
pointed to a spot on her rouged wrinkled cheek. 

Marietta approached, put her lips drily to the 
flesh for a split second. When Mrs. Vidich turn- 
ed away to take the package, Marietta rubbed 
the chalky feel, sweetish scent, from her mouth 
with the back of her hand, then held her hands 
out to receive her gift. 

That night Mrs. Vidich could hardly wait until 
Marietta went to bed so that she could take up 
her position at the diningroom window. She 
watched the Finley children through their usual 
horseplay, impatient for them to be off to bed so 
that their parents could get ready for bed. Mr. 
Finley had decided that he was putting on too 
much weight, and had started to do exercises at 
bedtime, much to Mrs. Vidich's amusement. She 
enjoyed this more than watching them make 
love, to see Mr. Finley, naked as the day he was 
born, as he bent to try and touch his toes, his 
fat butt in the air, that thing hanging down be- 
tween his legs. She had to cover her mouth with 
both her hands to keep from shouting with 

She was so transported by this spectacle that she 
did not hear Marietta come into the diningroom 
until the child said slowly, "You're watching us. 
You're watching Mama and Papa." 

Mrs. Vidich stammered, "No. No. I. . .1. . .was 
seeing if it is raining. Going to close the window 
if it is raining." But she did not move to do so. 

Marietta shook her head. "I've been here a long 

time. You're just standing there watching Mama 
and Papa. You watch us all the time." 

"No! I don't watch. . .1 was going to watch. . . 
television." She took a step toward the liv- 
ingroom. "I couldn't sleep, and I got up to watch 
television. That's it." 

She turned on the set, fell into the easy chair, 
heart pounding. She thought she might become 
ill, put her hand to her chest. Marietta sat on 
the floor in front of her, facing the television, 
outlined, silhouetted by the blue glow of the 
screen where men on horses raced and fought 
on a dusty street. 

Mrs. Vidich stared at the back of the girl's head. 
Finally she said softly, "Marietta." The girl did 
not turn toward her. "Marietta," she repeated. 
"You're a good girl. I've been good to you, 
haven't I? I didn't buy that little lamp today, but 
I bought you a pretty dress, didn't I?" 

"There was a dress I liked better than the dress 
you bought me." 

"Well, we'll see," Mrs. Vidich said weakly. 

"I liked another dress better. I really liked the 
little lamp." Marietta still focused on the televi- 
sion. "It would look real pretty in my room 

"Some other day we'll go and see about that 
lamp. See how much it costs. Tomorrow maybe. 
If I don't get sick. If I don't get so upset that I 
get sick. Marietta!" she cried. 

Marietta slowly slid backwards on the rug until 
she sat at Mrs. Vidich's feet, slightly to the 
right. She put her elbow up on the old woman's 
knees and turned her head, shaking her hair 
back so that Mrs. Vidich could see the broad 
grin on her face. Then she turned back to watch 
the program, resting her head on Mrs. Vidich's 

Mrs. Vidich stroked her hair. "That's right. A 
good girl," she said feebly. "I always knew. And 
you'll see, you'll see." 

Joanne Zimmerman has had forty-four stories published in periodicals as 
varied as Antioch Review and Kansas Quarterly. She lives in 
Homewood, Illinois. 




Patricia Roth Schwartz 

Martha, in her plain sunny kitchen, all bare 
scrubbed butcher block, moves back and forth 
from countertop to desk to wall-phone, waiting, 
busily, for Hanna, her daughter, to arrive. She 
knows that Hanna is never prompt, will not 
therefore waste a precious droplet of time herself. 
Time to Martha seems often inadequate to the 
tasks it must contain, as an oasis pool to irrigate 
a desert; still, she perseveres. 

"Hello, Joyce? Martha. I'm calling to remind you 
about the rally Thursday. Yes. Can you call the 
others on your list? Thank you." 

Hanging up, she reaches for the plastic bag of 
raisins and sunflower seeds, mentally calculating 
whether she'll have enough for the two pans of 
Crunchy Granola Bars, one for her affinity 
group training that night, one for the fundraiser 
Saturday. They were boycotting the A&lP. If 
necessary, would there be time to run to the 
food co-op for more seeds? Her eye moves to the 


large calendar tacked up by the bulletin board 
above her desk which lies inches deep in peti- 
tions. Days, boxed, march across the calendar; 
red lettering scrawled through most of them: 
time, filled with activity, purpose, effort, the 
pages ahead, the ones she hasn't turned over 
yet, yawn empty, white, full of potential terror. 

Martha fishes the fat red marker from the 
ceramic cup glazed with a leaping dolphin. She 
charts a few maneuvers into the week ahead. 
Reassured that all that's needed is possible, she 
turns back to the sunflower seeds. 

As Hanna's old Karmann Ghia rattles to a halt 
outside, Martha starts, runs a hand — despite 
herself — through her short, no-nonsense hair, 
tugs at her denim skirt, fleetingly, desperately, 
wishing she'd worn something floaty and 
brightly-colored (though nothing she owns 
remotely fits this description.) 

As Hanna's voice, "Mother! I'm here!" pierces 
the day, panic, a hot blade, slices her gut. 
"Mother!" Hanna, as always, overwhelms, her 
voice, her scent (musk oil?), the clouds of her 
hair, dark, loose, wild curls, her various drifting 
brilliant layers of ornament and dress, her hugs. 

Martha submits. Tea is put on. They sit. "No, 
thanks," Hanna pushes away the mug, "I 
brought this instead." She produces a bottle of 
Greek wine from her capacious, untidy bag. To 
Martha, sipping as they face each other across 
the breakfast nook table, the liquid Hanna pours 
tastes like vinegar. 

"When I was in Crete, we drank this endlessly! I 
was thrilled to find some just the other day in 
Harvard Square. So, Mother, how are you? How 
are all your Causes?" As she talks, Hanna sifts 
through stacks of thick envelopes: the desk and 
the nook table are the only clutter piles Martha 
permits. "Morris Udall, Ellie Smeal, Teddy Ken- 
nedy, Gloria Steinem. . .Mother, you have the 
most illustrious correspondents!" Hanna's hearty 
tone contains no malice, only her constant 
eagerness for a good laugh. With her mother, 
she knows few will be forthcoming. Irony seems 
her surest bet to redeem the afternoon. 

"Hanna—" How Martha hates the prim, cold 
tone the presence of her only offspring always 
produces. Every so often, in a rare self-reflective 
moment, she wonders, "How ever did such a 
creature come to me?" She feels far more nurtur- 
ing of the tiny brown-nut face in the photograph 
Save the Children has sent, identifying "Maria" 
as the grateful recipient of her fifteen dollars a 
month. Even the whooping cranes and the 
whales Hanna loves to mock seem far more in 
need of Martha's care than her own child. 

Martha remembers once ripping open yet 
another of the fat creamy envelopes that jam her 

mailbox daily— bringing into the heart of subur- 
ban Wayland the details of torture in the Mid- 
dle East, illiteracy on Mesa Flats, black lung in 
Harlan County — to see a picture of a bludgeon- 
ed, bloody baby seal, the mother hovering near- 
by, mute and bewildered with grief, and how she 
herself began to cry and cry and couldn't stop. 

Those moods, thank Providence, were rare. 

Martha takes another sip; the wine has not im- 
proved. "Hanna — " she starts again, "what 
I'm — we all— are trying to do is important work. 
You are an educated young woman — " A sore 
point: Hanna had left Radcliffe for The Art In- 
stitute, that, for an astonishing number of bed 
partners. "—You are certainly aware. Surely you 
must put aside some time to read the papers; the 
latest unemployment statistics have just been 
released — quite shocking — and Helen Caldicott 
spoke last week at Brandeis about the escalating 
arms race — " She begins to sound, even to 
herself, wound to the snapping point. 

"Mother!" Hanna jingles her silver bracelets, 
bought on a hitchhiking tour of Mexico. "I'm 
not putting you down! I just wish sometimes 
you'd forget all this 'Save the World' crap and 
think about yourself! When's the last time you 
took some space for you?" 

Hanna's vocabulary, to her mother's ear, has 
steadily corrupted itself ever since her parents 
agreed to fund her therapy. Hanna rejected 
Wayland Psychological Associates for a women's 
counseling collective in Cambridge. Martha 
answers primly. 

"I'm in no need of a vacation, thank you, dear. I 
do very little these days, actually, now that the 
referendum is over. All we're working on now is 
the nuclear issue— that being the most crucial, of 
course. My affinity group meets tonight. We've 
received training should we be arrested when we 
go to the sub base. You know, I believe," sud- 
denly she feels moved to reach out blindly, wild- 
ly toward this creature born of her, yet so 
foreign to her, knowing that Hanna soon could 
leap forever past her grasp, "my group must be 
something like that woman's support group you 
go to—" 

"Yes, it really must be. I never thought of it that 
way." Hanna smiles warmly, reaches for her 
mother's hand. 

Martha feels a rare flood of love for this hearty, 
overwhelmingly healthy creature who emerged 
grinning on the exact date she was due, spent 
summers at sleepover camp at eight, kayaked the 
Colorado at thirteen, lost her virginity ("no 
blood," Hanna had casually bragged) at fifteen. 

"Mother—" Hanna continues, "Mom — I have 
something special to tell you." 


In a flush of rare emotion, pleased with the suc- 
cess of the afternoon, Martha allows herself to 
slump back a little. The sips of wine, though 
small, have clouded her head. 

"Wonderful. I love news of your life." Usually a 
lie— yet what more shocking news could reach 
her now? The married Harvard professor had 
been the worst— except perhaps the summer 
spent in a cave in Crete after the tuition refund 
from the Lycee. Pregnancy or V.D. Martha does 
not fear. Hanna is never irresponsible or 
careless— only bold and self-indulgent. 

"It's my new lover." 

"Oh? Not another Geoffrey, I hope?" The pro- 
fessor left his wife soon after beginning to see 
Hanna. Hanna refused marriage; Geoffrey 
entered analysis; the affair collapsed. 

"No, Mother, no!" Hanna is laughing. "Far, far 
from it! No, I just wanted to share—" (Martha 
suppresses a wince.) "—that I am in love now, 
maybe for the first time ever. I felt you'd be 
pleased. I know you and Daddy have never 
stood in my way, but I'm aware that you think I 
take sex and relationships too casually." 

Martha is silent. 

"Her name is Shell." 

The silence lengthens. Martha, who is capable of 
hearing endless stories about babies in East 
Africa starving; political prisoners in various 
totalitarian regimes being forced to talk under 
electric shock; which dyes and chemicals cause 
which kinds of cancer; how the very earth itself 
would come apart should certain five-star 
generals tap a certain red button, finds herself 
unable now to take in what her ears receive. 
Finally, "I'm not sure, Hanna, what it is that 
you're saying." 

Through all this Hanna has been beaming. 
"That I'm in love, Mother. That my lover is a 
woman. That we're very, very happy. That I've 
finally found a joy I didn't know was possible!" 

"Then— are you," Martha's mind scrambles wild- 
ly through her memories of every demonstra- 
tion, pamphlet, speech for something that would 
help. " — Are you — gayl You've never brought 
this up before. You've always — seen — so many 

"Well, Mom—" Hanna's stretching now, wide 
purple sleeves drifting off her arms, the insides of 
which gleam, mottled and pale like the skins, 
Martha realizes suddenly, of baby seal. "You 
know how I hate labels — but if I must have one, 
then, yes, why not? Not 'gay' — that always 
makes me think of men in pushup bras and 
eyeshadow. 'Lesbian' — yes — lesbian'. Sounds 
lovely, doesn't it? When should I bring Shell for 

"But— but— " Martha has no idea how to feel, to 
behave, to respond. She had been taught, has 
taught Hanna in turn, to feel no disgust for any 
human choice, to respect all life that involves 
love as sacred. Hanna has always been full of a 
passion for all creatures— goldfish, mice, 
playmates of different colors, yes, even married 
Harvard professors— with sincerity and in- 
genuousness. Martha does not for a moment 
doubt the depth of her daughter's feelings for 
this— this Shell— whoever she is. 

Rather, Martha can't help shying away from any 
real grappling with the sexual nature. Her own 
life in that regard remains limited and 
underdeveloped. Edward, her husband, chief 
paleontologist at the Museum of Natural 
History, has been a compatible mate. After the 
conception of Hanna — their only moment of 
blaze — each had retired to a twin bed, coupling, 
briefly, wistfully, at distant intervals, neither 
having the heart to tell the other they'd rather 
not. Desire, instead, for Martha, finds full ex- 
pression through a stack of completed petitions 
thrust into a senator's hand, or when, on a 
long, parching march the pain of one's blisters 
becomes entirely submerged by the full-throated 
rise of angry, unified, hopeful voices. 

Her immediate second flood of feelings is fear: 
this earth — a fact not fully realized by Hanna, 
blessed from birth by vitamins, comforters, 
Montessori schools, the green illusion of subur- 
bia — is dangerous. Martha, early, learned this 
from her father, a frail upright, gentle, 
Unitarian/Universalist minister, who died a bit 
before his time of (she had always believed) a 
truly broken heart. In the same year that Martin 
Luther King was shot, Gene McCarthy defeated, 
his church was vandalized by a young addict he 
had sponsored. Years beside her mother at din- 
ners listening to visiting ministers speak of 
apartheid, Appalachia, voter registration, Mar- 
tha had yearned, as all adolescents, to run 
away— not to N.Y. or L.A., but to Mississippi. 
Her senior thesis at Earlham was on the causes 
of the Nazi Holocaust. On her postgraduation 
trip to Europe she left her traveling companions 
in a Munich beer garden to make a pilgrimage 
to Dachau. 

Now, here, in suburban Wayland, whose lilac 
bushes, Volvos in driveways, trim, clipped 
hedges, whole families in White Stag jogging 
suits out in the summer twilight, it seems as far 
from that awesome spot of earth, sifted deep in 
human ashes, as Shangri-La. Martha feels grip- 
ped—for her baby, her own — with old terror. 

"Hanna— this is all right with me. Not that what 
I think or feel has ever influenced you. . ." 

"Not true, Mother! We're really a lot alike." 


"Now, let me finish. I'm glad you're happy, and 
I hope this girl— woman— is good for you— but 
we don't live in as enlightened a world as we 
might. I know Anita Bryant was a laughing 
stock, but there are others— more serious, and 
sinister. People have lost jobs, apartments. . ." 

"Mother! No one's going to fire me for being 
queer!" Hanna earned a good living as a nude 
model for The Art Institute. "All the male 
teachers are queer themselves! As to my apart- 
ment, two dykes live downstairs, and — " 

"Hanna! Such language! Surely homosexuals — I 
mean, gays— lesbians— whatever— " Martha's 
mind reels now, full-speed away from seals lying 
in blood, crematorium smoke, burning crosses, 
toward new images. "These terms have been us- 
ed to degrade, and as you say, this is a happy 
choice for you — nothing to be ashamed of — " 

"Mother!" Hanna is really laughing now, pour- 
ing herself more wine. "'Dyke' means something 
good! We reclaim it like black kids call 
themselves 'nigger'. It means 'strong, powerful 

Martha has already ceased to listen. Instead, she 
is focused utterly on the mental image of her 
calendar, and how to make space for new and 
pressing priorities. 

By the time Shell comes to dinner, Martha has 
already subscribed to Gay Community News, 
joined the National Gay Task Force, and (due to 
her formidable past experience) has been elected 
Ways and Means Chairwoman of the Greater 
Boston Chapter of Parents of Gays. She has 
thoroughly shocked the local Wayland librarians 
by her unselfconscious combing of the stacks for 
every possible relevant text. She has begun 
therapy with a slightly nervous social worker at 
Wayland Psychological Associates who seems to 
ask many questions about her mother— or is it 
her father? Martha can never remember. 

In deference to his lifelong residence in the 
Jurassic Period, Edward has not been told; which 
meetings his wife attends do not, anyway, stick 
in his mind. Martha remembers, during their 
courtship, asking him why the dinosaurs became 
extinct. As he answered, she saw (for the first 
and only time) a mist of tears gather in his eyes. 
It was why she married him. Now memories of 
that vulnerability find protection under her own 
facade of competence. 

She catches herself, often now, in the Star 
Market, in the library, waiting rooms, looking at 
women: questioning, testing, wondering — then, 
pulling herself up sharply, visualizing instead, 
her calendar and the steady wall of days in red 
banked against Armageddon. It helps. 

On the humid, late June Saturday that gays and 

Parents of Gays — Martha herself has helped to 
sew the felt banner, clucking and cooing over 
more wallet-size pictures of delicate boys than 
she had thought possible — march through the 
streets of Boston to demand their rights, Martha 
feels new vigor. It's been a long time since she 
marched; that time "War is not healthy for 
children and other living things" was emblazon- 
ed on her placard. Sweat pours off her brow, her 
throat (from shouting "Two-Four-Six-Eight-Gay 
is Just as Good as Straight") rasps itself raw. As 
she follows the bobbing mass of heads, purple 
balloons, streaming banners shaking before her 
to a disco beat as far as the eye can see, she feels 
the surge of that old familiar passion. 

Above the street in the bedroom of an attic 
apartment in Cambridge, oblivious to the date 
or the event downtown, Hanna and Shell twine 
in the aftermath of love. Each seeks the other's 
eye, each traces with a finger-tip silver pathways 
of moisture from brow to cheek to shoulder to 
breast — and then, curled and secure as babies, 
they sleep. 

Patricia Roth Schwartz is a psychotherapist m Somerville, MA. work- 
ing from a feminist /holistic perspective. She is also a writer of fiction, 
poetry, reviews, and non-fiction, who publishes regularly in Bay Win- 
dows, a Boston paper, and has had work in Sojourner, Plainswoman, 
and many other journals. 




What makes it wrong is of course 

the glasses. As in this other one, 

the fat middle-aged couple smirks obscenely 

because of the TV set, the Sears chairs, 

the cheap prints on the walls. These things mean death, 

not the flesh, even thickened ankles 

and thighs, beneath the leaves, 

beside the stream, 

not the leaves themselves, the intercourse 

of light and shade, the moss, 

the green and brown smell of the woods. 

So if we go naked, let it be 
without clothes. 

Janet McCann 

'fjcaeso, o&tied Wtwan, WZf 

2 A.M. 

it's been so long since 

1 called someone at 2 a.m., we 
didn't have kids & it would be 1 apt. 
to another, black lines across the city 
or across the towns, the fields &. fences 
between my city and yours, the lines 
were greyhound buses streaking 
across the night, our voices 
flickering in our cold kitchens like those 
old fourth-of-july pinwheels kids once had. 
it's been so long, and it's 

2 a.m. now, but I don't know 
anyone to call, even in Cal. where 
it's earlier and not beyond reason, 
outside the streetlight makes a long 
elliptical patch of light on the 
suburban pavement, a stray torn 

howls in the hedge, no one has a light on, 
no one, the old man who used to work 
in his workshop all night sawing and 
singing is dead now and the boy 
across the street who studied has gone 
to the seminary. I think of calling you 
but that would be unthinkable, your wife 
would answer a harsh, angry hello, 
hello, who is this, and you would 
worry: the parents? the kids? 
the wailing cat is up against 
the window now, wanting to 
mate with my Persian, 
the cat outside wants in. 
the cat inside wants out. 

Janet McCann 




Sometimes you glimpse her waving 

from a dwindling landscape 

but she will disappear 

before your eyes 

before your eyes and lips 

have settled 

Or she will lean against you 


your pulses pounding 

but before you can embrace 

she has departed 

No use to call her name 

from tops of towers 

Speak it low in the sacred caves, 

savor the echo, 


dream of water, murmur oms, 

then wait until it's time; 

a lone vibration one day will meet 

that high heartbeat 

and crack the mountainsides. 

Lillian Morrison 


Time to slow the beat 
Of my pace down 
To reggae sound. 

The tradewinds 
Of Montego Bay. 

A body black 

As the air sweet. 

His words lingered heavily 

Like the curl of ganja smoke. 

His presence a balm 

That made me calm, 

Soothing my burns 

From exposures 

To colder suns 

Of yesterday. 

I felt in his eyes 

The comfort, 

The warmth 

Of being wrapped in the dark, 



Susan Imperial 


The rooms in her small apartment 

are now too targe, 

the distances to bed and table 

too far, the place, 

a spooky grand hotel 

of frightening shadows. 

Tottering, tiny, 

she'd like to slip 

into a cradle, tucked in 

by momma, and be rocked 

gently back, gently, gently 

into a small warm darkness. 

Lillian Morrison 


Men's black umbrellas, $2.98. Limit three per customer. 

But I want the whole shipment, uncrate them 

straight from the truck into my arms. I need them all — 

one for each room, the hall, the baths, the yard. 

They will be bats, mourning kites, wrecked Amish 

carriages, sad tents. They will be nuns, 

they will be witches. I will drop the rest 

from a plane over my town, they will drift down 

between the raindrops, hover over my street, 

blow down the gutters, hang on all the trees. 

Neighbors will think the Ptarmigans have come. 

People who haven't spoken now for years 

will break their silence. When the sun comes out 

my black umbrellas will join into a flock 

and all fly north, pumping wind like bellows. 

We'll watch from all the windows, 

once more holding hands. 

Janet McCann 




Poems by Kathryn Kerr 
Photographs by Raymond Bial 

Urbana, Illinois: Stormline Press, 1985 

Reviewed by Duke Rank 

In America, the "mainstream" myth of rural life 
still combines the idealized family farm with the 
romanticized small town. Despite the realities to- 
day of small towns often being dependent on 
union-busting sub-contractors, or the rural poor 
watching David Letterman's Yuppie humor on 
late-night TV, most Americans still like to 
believe in a fantasy of a Golden Era, of a rural 
America quite like Norman Rockwell paintings 
and Walt Disney's sanitized Main Street. Every 
year we get a glut of Thanksgiving Day and pre- 
Christmas TV specials celebrating the virtues of 
simpler days. Whittier's "Snowbound" probably 
started this genre when he romanticized the 
"good old days" which were already past it seem- 
ed to him writing in the industrialized 1860s. 
Yet, midwesterners, especially Hoosiers (such as 
Edward Eggleston, Booth Tarkington, and James 
Whitcomb Riley — "Blessings on thee little man, 
Barefoot boy with cheek of tan") aided and abet- 
ted the nostalgic glorification of rural life. 

Midwestern realism, in contrast, is still a smaller 
tributary, despite a long and honorable tradition 
dating back to Hamlin Garland, through the 
novels of Willa Cather, Ruth Suckow, and Ole 
Rolvaag; the short stories of Sherwood Ander- 
son, and the poetry of Edgar Lee Masters. But 

this tradition of sharp, sometimes blunt, realism 
lives today as the lives of hardscrabble survivors 
have their chronicler in the poetry of Kathryn 
Kerr and their portrait in the photographs of 
Raymond Bial. 

First Frost is a handsome book, well crafted and 
carefully printed, a collection of two dozen 
poems and 18 black and white photographs. 
Half of the poems are in "traditional" free verse 
(an oxymoron? You know what I mean, ragged 
right margins); half are in prose paragraphs. Ah, 
but what prose: well chosen concrete details, 
rich and textured, evoking childhood memories, 
and sharply rendered scenes suggesting a context 
far beyond the page. 

Bial's photographs of rusted buckets, Mason jars, 
and grain elevators make commonplaces into 
new places; his people are interesting, pro- 
vocative, disturbing, almost Flannery O'Connor 
characters as envisioned by Grant Wood. (My 
neighbors just down the road a piece on 
Highway 57.) We get to look at them longer and 
closer than we would stare at strangers in real 
life, and with that time, we learn some things 
about them. So too with the poetry. We learn 
from these interesting accounts of childhood, of 
violence and covert sexuality, and we have a 
new insight into these good people who "waste 
nothing, need little." 

Dr. Rank is professor of English at Governors State University where he 
teaches and writes poetry. His most recently published volume of poetry 
is Sea of Cortez. 






Gabrielle Burton 

New York: Scribners, 1986 

Emily Wasiolek 

Gabrielle Burton's Heartbreak Hotel has won the 
1986 Maxwell Perkins Prize, awarded each year 
to a first novel of exceptional merit. Diane 
O'Hehir calls the novel "a wild and sad and fun- 
ny trip through every woman's lives and losses." 
Gloria Steinen tells us we'll "gasp in recogni- 
tion—and laugh and laugh"; and Fay Weldon 
says this novel "does more for women (not to 
mention literature) than anything I have read 
for a decade." 

Such extravagant praise is merited, both because 
of the strikingly original content, and for its in- 
novative form. The content is very much 
feminist, and in large part a review of the in- 
dignities to which women have been subjected 
and subjected themselves. There is a video quali- 
ty to the rapid shifts of characters and scenes, 
and something of a collective stream-of- 
consciousness technique in the fragmentary and 

associative way in which the particles of the 
feminine experience are exposed. I suspect that 
Burton wants to impress us with how unified the 
history of the female experience has been: how 
much the past and the present have been one. 

Burton's fictional world may seem confusing at 
first because the seven main characters are in- 
troduced simultaneously. Rapid bits of informa- 
tion about them are flashed before the reader 
like puzzle pieces which only occasionally fit 
together. There are lists of what each character 
is wearing, or thinking, or doing: 

Each woman has a flash of family: 

Gretchen thinks of her Ma. 

Pearl thinks of her Daddy. 

Maggie thinks of her Gramma. 

Meg thinks of her Uncle. 

Daisy thinks of her ex-Mother Superior. 

Upstairs, Rita thinks about her first cousin... 

Each statement is syntactically self-contained, 
and if connections are to be made, the author 
does not make them for us. One gathers that 
the author wants to deconstruct those logical 
and repetitive links that organize our usual 
thinking. This discrete material comes gradually 
into focus and the reader begins to understand 
the situation of six women. They are 
recuperating at the Heartbreak Hotel, which the 
city wants to transform into a shelter for retard- 
ed adolescent boys. The main characters are: 1. 
Daisy, an ex-nun and ex-missionary, at present 
the atheist curator of the Museum and the most 
well-adjusted, forceful woman in the group. 2. 
Pearl, a divorced mother of five and a comic. 3. 
Rita, the beautiful, sensuous, promiscuous belly 
dancer. 4. Meg, the hard-nosed cop who adopts 
a little girl. 5. Gretchen, a cheerleader who is in 
constant dread of an impending visit from her 
mother. 6. Maggie, the simultaneous translator 
of languages who drinks too much. 7. Quasi, the 
albino, nearly blind, hunchback alter-ego of 
Margaret Valentine, curator, who smashes Meg's 
motorcycle and lies comatose in the hospital. 

Six of these women are recuperating from their 
arduous jobs as tour guides for the twenty city- 
block-long Museum of the Revolution located in 
Buffalo, New York. Within the context of Bur- 
ton's fictional world, the Museum of the Revolu- 
tion or MOTR is a real museum where so many 
people visit that the politicians are perturbed 
and disturbed. Government funding has stopped 
and the city has issued an eviction notice. But it 
is clear, too, that this museum is a metaphor for 
women's past and present experiences. The 
museum is partially described as follows: "The 
Museum of the Revolution is where you take the 


little children and show them girdles and 
miniskirts and garter belts and siliconed breasts 
and false fingernails and rubber asses and foot- 
binding shoes and sexist remarks and 
stereotyped textbooks and pornography and all 
the women who died in pregnancy and abortion 
and childbirth. ..and the sin of incuriosity about 
female physiology and Toni home permanents 
and wolf whistles and sweet sixteen parties... and 
pain and waste and tragedy and say, look closely 
and carefully, children, this is how it used to 

Throughout this novel the subject matter and 
the stylistic devices continue to surprise and 
delight the reader. For example, there are long 
lists of women's experiences. These lists are in 
varying patterns: sometimes they are in sort of 
stanzaic free verse; other times the ideas come 
from a group discussion or a character's inner 
thoughts. Sometimes, the lists are brief; 
sometimes they continue for three or four pages. 

The varied contents include lists of childhood 
remembrances, rules for being a good person, 
what it means to be a girl or how to be a good 
daughter. Here is an abbreviated example of 
"The Litany of The Lies Mothers Tell Their 
Daughters and Daughters Tell Their Mothers": 

Mothers feeding their families in this order, 
husbands, sons, daughters, themselves 
Mothers who don't believe their daughter's 
story of incest 

Mothers averting their eyes from their married 
daughter's bruises 

Mothers reading their daughter's diaries 
Mothers who won't let their daughters be sex- 
ual creatures 

Daughters who don't make trouble 

Daughters who say their mothers are too old 

to change 

Daughters who don't say anything about their 

mother's drinking 

Daughters who stay silent about their mother's 


Daughters who don't let their mothers be 

sexual creatures 

More than the plot keeps the reader turning the 
pages; however, there are three suspenseful ques- 
tions to be solved: will the women be forced to 
leave Heartbreak Hotel; will Quasi live or die; 
will the Museum be closed? But the most 
suspenseful question throughout is: will the 
reader understand that she is looking into the 
mirror of her own life. Will she recognize it, and 
absorb it? Will she understand that we share a 
heritage, and a future: that we too have been 
"particle-lized" and unread or unread sufficient- 
ly, that our history has been the lists that have 

been poured and are being poured into our be- 
ings by others? Heartbreak Hotel is funny and 
tragic and most of all it is a travail of con- 


Emily Wasioleh. teaches English Literature at Prairie State College. She 
has served on the Advisory Council of The Creative Woman since its in- 
ception, and has published both poetry and nonfiction in these pages. 




Post Office Box 1087 

Champaign, IL. 61820 

Editor: John Z. Guzlowski, Publisher: Illinois Writers, Inc. P.O. Box 
1087, Champaign, Illinois 61820. IWI is a not-for-profit service 
organization for writers in Illinois and is partially funded by a grant 
from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency. ISSN: 073-8929- 

A new feminist journal entitled BLAZE: THE INTIMATE 
VISION OF FEMINISM is looking for works on "Women 
and Creating" (Deadline April 21), "Love and Obses- 
sion" (Deadline July 21), and "Women and Sanity" 
(Deadline October 21). When submitting, make sure you 
specify for which issue you are submitting. BLAZE 
assures me that work from both men and women will be 
considered. Send your manuscripts with an SASE to the 
magazine c/o the editor Linda Berman, 8906 Santa 
Clara, Dallas, TX 75218. 


Fall 1987 Special Issue on 

The theme of the issue will be the power that Native American Women wield in their communities and 
in their own lives— their abilities to make decisions and to influence the course of events in their lives 
and those of the people around them. Contributions will include discussions of political power at the 
tribal and national level, the power of knowledge to preserve traditions and identity, and the power of ar- 
tistic expression to create a sensitivity to Indian cultures. 

Send contributions before June 1, 1987 to Professor Clara Sue Kidwell, Guest Editor, 3415 Dwindle Hall, 
University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720. 




A Decade of Publishing 

When people ask me how The Creative Woman 
came to be, I tell them that it was a series of 
events, with one thing leading to another. First, 
an old friend from University of Chicago days, 
Judy Torney, called to ask if I would address the 
AAUW (American Association of University 
Women) at their Midwest Regional Conference. 
My assigned topic was "Women as Idea Inven- 
tors," and I had several months to prepare. 
After my presentation, the editor of the AAUW 
Journal asked for my script for publication in the 
Journal, where it appeared as "Women's Creativi- 
ty" in 1976. Quite to my surprise, I received 
over a hundred letters from women who were 
stimulated by the article and wanted to share 
their own experiences and frustrations as they 
struggled toward self-expression in music, dance, 
poetry, teaching. What to do with all this mail? 
It deserved serious attention. I decided to send 
out a newsletter to all of them, telling them 
about each other, and setting up a kind of net- 
work for the exchange of ideas. Thus it was in 
the summer of 77 that a small group of us went 
to lunch, hosted by Ted Andrews, who was Ac- 
ting Provost at that time, and launched The 
Creative Woman. The first issue was a twelve- 
page fold-over mailer. It contained news about 
women doing creative things across the country, 
poems, a bibliography of periodicals devoted to 
women's creative efforts, and short abstracts of 
the work of scholars in women's studies. The 
mailing list consisted of a hundred names, the 
women who had written to me. 

Over the years we've examined many topics 
from a feminist perspective: wilderness, peace, 
law, third world, sailing, politics, history, heal- 
ing, China, children, fine arts, performing arts, 
literature, religion, energy. We used to make 
every issue distinctively colorful, changing the 
colors of paper and ink; by the summer of '83 
and the "men changing" issue, we seemed to 
have settled on the present format: a black-and- 
white glossy 48-page magazine. Literally hun- 
dreds of women, and a few men, have con- 
tributed to these pages. Some things have re- 
mained constant, most notably the elegant 
design of Suzanne Oliver, whose imagination 
and style have marked every issue. What lies 
ahead? We haven't run out of ideas yet! Future 
issues will deal with Native American Women, 
diarists, flying, education, entrepreneurs, the 
Gaia hypothesis, feminist theory and literary 
criticism and a "sisterhood is global" issue. 

This spring and summer will see special events 
to celebrate our tenth anniversary. On April 17, 
we present Sydney Morris in a public lecture, 
"Emptiness and Form: Some Considerations on 
Quantum Physics and Liberal Religion," based 
on her Harvard Divinity School thesis. Other 
events are planned for later. All readers within 
driving (or flying) distance of Chicago are in- 
vited to come and celebrate with us. 

A Letter to Allegra 

Mary Sidney and I were fortunate to study with 
Allegra Stewart at Butler University during our 
undergraduate days. We hoped she would be 
able to join us for the production of She Always 
Said, Pablo; afterwards we would go somewhere 
and talk about Gertrude Stein, our impressions 
of the theatrical performance, and perhaps 
understand a little more about this enigmatic 
genius with the help of a foremost Stein scholar. 
That was not to be. Nevertheless, as a kind of 
review, we offer here Mary's letter to our men- 

Dear Allegra, 

It is 8:15 A.M. and I'm sitting in the 
classroom (English/Humanities 101). My 
students are writing a final exam, solemnly at 
work on "Ulysses" (Tennyson, not Joyce) and 
"Mr. Flood's Party," and others. Sniffles and 
rustle of pages being turned. Outside the huge 
windows a gray March sky looks on gloomily. 
Brisk east wind. I have about 28 students in 
this class, two or three excellent ones, several 
hard cases, many not really convinced that 
poetry is worth bothering with. They liked 
the short stories. 

Helen and I are sorry you couldn't get to 
Chicago and see She Always Said, Pablo. Let 
me tell you about it— 

On Saturday, March 14, we made our way 
through a wet snowstorm— ice, slush, rain, 
snow— to the Goodman Theatre, a place I've 
always liked, part of the Art Institute of 
Chicago. We had good seats, front and 
center. Stage is bare except for a huge 
reproduction of Gertrude Stein. Music begins 
and a procession, very stately and beautiful, 
crosses the stage — the subjects of early Picasso 
paintings — circus people and a tawny-skinned 
nearly nude Minataur. Alice B. Toklas ap- 
pears at the side, middle-aged, prim and pro- 
per in black shapeless but elegant dress, com- 
ments in a dry voice, describes the relation- 
ship of Gertrude Stein and Picasso. Gertrude 
Stein is a youngish actress in a wheelchair 
who looks a bit Stein-ish in brown velvet 


dress, short hair, and with one shoulder held 
higher than the other. 

I can't tell you what happens. There is no 
plot. A series of skits (that's not a good word) 
follows. More characters appear: a beautiful 
woman in white who sings, Picasso, a 
youthful thick-set man in a matador's 
costume. Much singing and dancing, the stage 
aswirl in color, motion, music. Enigmatic 
remarks from Gertrude Stein and Alice, and I 
stop trying to understand. What I hear is 
unintelligible, incoherent, and repetitious but 
fun, especially "Miss Furr and Miss Skeen." 
(But a part of me remains suspicious and 
resentful — why don't I understand? Why can't 
I penetrate these mysteries? Is it some failure 
within me? Or is it fraud I'm watching?) 

But I liked what I saw, incomprehensible as 
much of it was. I liked the corny bit of having 
Gertrude Stein in one scene holding a (toy) 
white poodle. So even Basket got into the 
show. Scenes I remember: Miss Furr and Miss 

Skeen talking furiously, Alice kissing the 
Minotaur, Gertrude Stein sardonically com- 
menting on Picasso's play, which was enacted 
before us. 

After the performance, Steve Scott, director 
of arts and education at the Goodman, led a 
discussion of what we had witnessed, and I 
learned a few facts that probably everyone 
else knows. The most amusing was learning 
that Gertrude Stein studied repetition in an 
aunt's household where elderly visiting ladies 
repeated bits of conversation for the benefit of 
their hard-of-hearing companions. 

In all, a vivid and entertaining evening. We 
missed you. 



Mary Sidney teaches English at the University of 
Illinois at Chicago. 

Photo: Kevin Horan, from the Goodman Theatre's production of She Always Said, Pablo. 


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